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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yumi Matsutoya -- Yosoyuki Gao de (よそゆき顔で)



(karaoke version)

I think this was the 2nd Yuming song that I had ever heard, back on "Sounds of Japan". "Yosoyuki Gao de"(With a Game Face) is a track on her 9th album, "Toki no Nai Hotel"(時のないホテル....The Timeless Hotel) which was released in June 1980. It had also been released as the B-side for the single "ESPER" a few months earlier which only went as high as No. 77 on the Oricon rankings.


Since Yumi Arai(荒井由実)became Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実) a few years earlier, I found that she started to mix in poppier, more uptempo melodies into her compositions although I still considered her to be in the New Music vein even going into the 80s. I think the notable thing about "Yosoyuki Gao de" was that there was this electric rock guitar illustrating the protagonist's blues throughout the song. As for the song itself, it talks about a bride, presumably getting hitched the next day, driving along the seashore of Japan while she muses uncertainly about the big change in her life literally less than 24 hours away. Because Yuming has usually written songs based on what women often go through, I can only imagine that she's spoken to quite a few fiancees with cold feet.


Yukio Hashi and Sayuri Yoshinaga -- Itsudemo Yume wo (いつでも夢を)





One of the most evergreen of evergreen kayo kyoku, "Itsudemo Yume wo"(Always a Dream) probably still gets requests at even the most modern of karaoke boxes. And it's guaranteed that it will pop up on a music retrospective of the Showa Era. I've been hearing this song since I was in diapers. I can name that tune within the first three notes.

Composed by the late Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正)and written by Takao Saeki(佐伯孝夫) in 1962, it's a cheerful song of longing for a young girl who sings "....more secretly than the stars, more softly than the rain." It's been covered by duos of singers over the decades but the very first pairing was singer Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫) and actress Sayuri Yoshinaga(吉永小百合). Although the song did a lot of the heavy lifting to reach its fame, the pairing of the most popular actress of that time and one-third of the Gosanke (御三家....The Big Three.....the two other big singers in the 60s being Kazuo Funaki and Teruhiko Saigo) certainly didn't hurt things. The Oricon rankings hadn't been invented at that time, but it won a Japan Record Award and sold over 300,000 records.


This is a well-preserved video of Hashi and Yoshinaga performing the song on stage. Watching this for the first time, it reminded me of how an RKO music program must've gone back in the 30s and 40s. And the arrangements for the song also hinted at some of the sweet dance music that had been popular during America's Jazz Age.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Oricon Top 10 Singles 1991

1. Kazumasa Oda                   Love Story wa Totsuzen ni
2. Chage & Aska                    Say Yes
3. KAN                                 Ai wa Katsu
4. Noriyuki Makihara               Donna Toki Mo
5. ASKA                               Hajimari wa Itsumo Ame
6. Kyoko Koizumi                   Anata ni Aete Yokatta
7. B'z                                   LADY NAVIGATION
8. Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi             Shabondama
9. Dreams Come True             Eyes to Me
10. B'z                                  Alone

Oda and Chage & Aska each sold over 2 million copies while the ascent of B'z can be seen here. And former childhood neighbours KAN and ASKA are bracketing Mackey.


KAN -- Ai wa Katsu (愛は勝つ)



Into my second year of JET in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, this song was being played everywhere in the karaoke bars and on radios and TV. Couldn't avoid it....and some of my fellow North American JETs tried very hard to. But my blog is for the people who enjoy J-Pop....and kayo kyoku, of course.

KAN was this clean-cut fellow in the zoot suits that were popular during the late 80s and early 90s who played the piano. Born in Fukuoka as Kan Kimura (木村和)in 1962, he was greatly influenced by latter-half Beatles, Stevie Wonder and especially Billy Joel. His career started in 1987, but it wasn't until his 8th single "Ai wa Katsu"(Love Will Triumph), written and composed by KAN, was released in September 1990 that he hit the heights. For the next 52 weeks, this 2-million-seller-plus song would occupy the Oricon charts, including the top spot from Christmas Eve 1990 to February 11 1991. It would eventually earn itself the position of the 3rd-ranking song of 1991, behind "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"ラブ・ストーリーは突然に) by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)and "Say Yes" by Chage & Aska.

All three songs also happen to be theme songs for TV shows. In "Ai wa Katsu"'s case, it was the theme song for two different variety shows on two different networks at two different times. I watched one of those two shows regularly on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on Fuji-TV: "Yamada Katsutenai Terebi"やまだかつてないテレビ), hosted by veteran comedienne Kuniko Yamada山田邦子) (kinda like Japan's Carol Burnett). KAN was a frequent musical guest along with Mariko Nagai(永井真理子).

"Ai wa Katsu"is one of those happy-go-lucky tunes that is earnestly sung by KAN, if you take a look at the video. Referring back to his own idol of Billy Joel, the song blows a respectful melodic kiss to Joel's "Uptown Girl".

One very interesting piece of trivia about KAN. As a boy, his family lived in a company dormitory. One day, an older boy living next door was kind enough to play with little Mr. Kimura. Neither boy realized until they both became famous....but the older boy turned out to be ASKA of Chage & Aska fame. KAN admitted that he didn't remember anything from that miraculous meeting.. Ah....


Saburo Tokito -- Yuuki no Shirushi (勇気のしるし)



Years before Red Bull would smash into the nightclubs and study rooms of the world, there was Regain. The black-and-yellow vitamin drink still exists in Japan but over 20 years ago, one commercial and one song for this drink would have everyone marching gleefully whether or not they bought the stuff. I remember it even made it onto CNN as part of a report on the state of the Japanese economy which was starting to enter its quarter-century of recession.

The only other Saburo Tokito (時任三郎)song I have in the blog up to now was his debut song in 1981, the bluesy ballad "Kawa no Nagare wo Daite Nemuritai"川の流れをだいて眠りたい). About a decade later, Tokito would achieve another sort of pop fame by becoming the Ultimate Japanese Businessman/Ultra Daimyo, Saburota Ushiwakamaru(牛若丸三郎太). He challenged viewers with this popular catchphrase, "Can you battle it out for 24 hours?" The above is the commercial that made it all possible.




This is the full 3-minute version of "Yuuki no Shirushi"(The Badge of Courage)which was released as a single in November 1989. It peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 16th-ranked song for 1990. I'm sure it was a hit at the year-end parties and karaoke bashes. There's nothing like a rousing march to get everyone up and singing.




This is the series of Ushiwakamaru Regain ads. Since those days, there have been a number of new Regain ads with other celebs, but no one and nothing has come close to The Ultimate Japanese Businessman.

Masaaki Hirao and Yoko Hatanaka -- Canada Kara no Tegami (カナダからの手紙)



Yes, believe it or not, there is an example of kayo kyoku that has my country in it. Well, according to the lyrics, any country could have really stood in for the "Wish you were here" theme of this song but I guess the composer and lyricist must have found the Rockies and bracing cold weather of The Great White North the most effective backdrop.

"Canada Kara no Tegami" is often called by its English translation "Love Letter from Canada" in the karaoke bars where I had first found out about this popular duet tune. I heard it numerous times at Kuri, often by transplanted Japanese ex-pats who somehow wanted to show their appreciation for being in the home of maple syrup, ice hockey and Anne of Green Gables. And I often heard it during my first several months in Japan as a JET participant where my new comrades wanted to pay tribute to my presence there.



Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃) has written songs for numerous singers such as Agnes Chan(アグネスチャン), Mari Amachi(天地真理) and Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし). He even wrote the theme songs for famous TV anime Galaxy Express 999. Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) was a graduate from his own academy. But in 1978, he composed the song which, along with Jun Hashimoto's(橋本淳) lyrics, would get him into karaoke legend. He teamed up with actress Yoko Hatanaka(畑中葉子), who had been attending Hirao's academy. Hatanaka wasn't even 20 years of age when she was picked to duet with the 40-year-old schoolmaster and singer, and this would be her debut as a singer. Hey, no pressure.

As it turned out, "Love Letter from Canada" became a huge hit, hitting the No. 1 spot a few weeks after its debut in early January 1978, and it would end up being the 7th-ranked song for the year. The cherry on this sundae was an appearance on that year's Kohaku Utagassen.



Even the celebs couldn't help themselves from singing the duet.

In any case, Happy 145th Birthday, Canada, eh!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yoshie Kashiwabara -- Saiai (最愛)



This is another Yoshie Kashiwabara/Miyuki Nakajima(柏原芳恵・中島みゆき) collaboration after "Haru Nanoni"春なのに). In her career, the Osaka native has released 37 singles, but her Nakajima-penned songs have always been the special ones. They have that gravitas that rather rise them above her usual aidoru tunes to the extent that I could classify them as sophisticated pop. It was released in September 1984 as her 21st single.

I hadn't heard "Saiai"(Beloved) for many years, so on hearing it again after so long, I realized how well-crafted it is. Melodically, there is a certain Gallic flavour to it thanks to Nakajima's arrangements and orchestra behind Kashiwabara. Lyrically, Yoshie sings of being on a ship with an unidentified beloved one though they can never be together, and both have their own suitors. Nakajima could have almost presaged the story of "Titanic".




Here is Kashiwabara herself performing the song in front of her very ravenous fans. I can only imagine that some of those young men must have been wondering if they could have been her beloved. For the record, the song peaked at No. 8 on the Oricon charts and finished as the 70th-ranked song of 1984.


Kiyotaka Sugiyama & Omega Tribe -- Summer Suspicion





Omega Tribe is up there with TUBE, Southern All Stars, and Anri(杏里) when it comes to kayo kyoku in the hot season. The band went through three different lead vocalists, the first of whom was Kiyotaka Sugiyama(杉山清隆). Their debut single was "Summer Suspicion", a mellow mid-tempo number which ought to bring out the nostalgic beach memories amongst the middle-aged salarymen in Japan around this time. It's very comforting to listen to; I basically see Omega Tribe as being TUBE with more AOR tendencies.

The song was released in April 1983 and peaked at No. 9 on the Oricon weeklies, and ended up being the 39th-ranked single of that year (according to www.early-times.com). It also came out as part of the band's debut album, "Aqua City" which was released later in September. Lyrically, the song talks about a young man's worries that his girlfriend may not remain so for much longer. It was written by Chinfa Kan(康珍化), a 2nd-generation Korean-Japanese who has written for a number of singers including the aforementioned Anri. He also wrote the lyrics for Masaki Ueda's(上田正樹)"Osaka Bay Blues" and Mariko Takahashi's(高橋真梨子)big hit in 1984 "Momo Iro Toiki"(桃色吐息), both of which have already been listed in this blog. The music was composed by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司), who also helped out on "Osaka Bay Blues", and composed an early hit by Mariya Takeuchi,(竹内まりや)"September".



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yellow Magic Orchestra/Akiko Yano -- Tong Poo (東風)



"Tong Poo"(Eastern Winds) is one of the Yellow Magic Orchestra's early classics from their very first self-titled album in 1978. Composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), the title came from Jean-Luc Godard's 1969 movie "Le Vent D'Est". Fusion is incorporated into the techno and Asian exotica to create this jazzy and ethereal soundscape. The above video is for the original version. A second version was created with Minako Yoshida's(吉田美奈子) breathy vocals included during the middle portion. For me, whenever I hear "Tong Poo", it just takes me back to those days listening to the band's audiotape on my cherry-red Sony double-cassette recorder.



It has only been within the last few months that I discovered that there was a version of "Tong Poo"with Sakamoto's former better half, Akiko Yano(矢野顕子), providing actual vocals. It has less fusion and more Asian in it, but it doesn't take anything away from the song. Yano just adds that extra wonderful dimension to it through her delivery. Yano's cover version, by the way, appears on her 1980 album, "Gohan ga Dekita yo"ごはんができたよ....Dinner's Ready). 

The Peanuts/W -- Koi no Vacance (恋のバカンス)



Only found out this morning that Emi Ito(伊藤エミ) of The Peanuts had passed away on June 15 at the age of 71. The duo had stopped being a performing act for almost 40 years but a number of their songs are still being covered by numerous artists, including the United States Air Force Band (you can look for them on YouTube). "Koi no Vacance"(Vacance de L'Amour) is one of The Peanuts' lasting songs.



As originally sung by Emi and Yumi, it has this infectiously rollicking beat emanating from a big band heart. Written by Tokiko Iwatani(岩谷時子) and composed & arranged by Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰), the song got The Peanuts onto the 1963 Kohaku Utagassen, and won Miyagawa a Japan Record Award for arrangement. The word "vacance"itself became one of the big catchphrases of the year because of the tune.




As I've said, a number of singers have covered "Koi no Vacance"over the years, one of them being another duo, W. W consisted of two petite members of Morning Musume(モーニング娘。), Nozomi Tsuji(辻希美) and Ai Kago(加護亜衣). Their cover of the song was their first single as this unit and was released in May 2004 as a surf rock version.

One small piece of trivia concerning Emi Ito; she was the first wife of Kenji Sawada(沢田研二), vocalist of the Group Sounds band, The Tigers.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hiroaki Igarashi -- Pegasus no Asa (ペガサスの朝)




"Pegasus no Asa" (The Morning of the Pegasus) just sounds like something that would be perfect for an optimistic start to the day. Composed by the singer, Hiroaki Igarashi(五十嵐浩晃), himself and written by Tetsuya Chiakiちあき哲也), it was released as Igarashi's 3rd single in November 1980 after 2 other singles in the same year. The third time was the charm as "Pegasus no Asa" ended up becoming a huge hit going into the new year; it finished 1981 as the 30th-ranked song.

The arrangement of the song reminds me a lot of Mike Post's music. Post is the famous American TV theme composer behind "The A-Team", "Hill Street Blues" and "The Rockford Files". But it's the theme of "Magnum P.I." that I hear whenever I listen to "Pegasus no Asa" for some reason. It's just one of my favourite Japanese pop songs from the 80s.




Kyoko Koizumi/Madoka Mori -- Watashi no 16-sai (私の16才)



The things you learn when you're researching for a blog. My first entry on Kyon-Kyon was "Gakuen Tengoku"(学園天国), which was a cover of an old Finger Five tune from the early 70s. Well, I found out that her debut tune in 1982 was itself a cover of a song under a different title back in 1979.

But first, Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子). Born in 1966 in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, she auditioned for talent show "A Star is Born" in 1981 where she performed "Kare wa Hatsukoi"彼は初恋....He is My First Love), an aidoru tune by Mako Ishino(石野真子), and later signed a contract with Burning Productions, the same talent agency that Ishino was associated with, and Victor Entertainment.

"Watashi no 16-sai"(My 16) was a somewhat disco-y launch song for the 16-year-old Koizumi. It got as high as No. 22 on the Oricon weeklies and sold a modest 100,000 records after its release in March 1982. Some months later, it was included in Kyon-Kyon's debut album, "My Fantasy". Listening to this song reminded me of listening to a lot of debut songs by aidoru during this period...they all had that chipper melody of strings and synths with the new kids on the block sounding fairly similar with a hint of the vocal characteristic that would distinguish them from each other later on. Basically, they were embryonic singers. In Koizumi's case, it was a nasal yet mellow quality in her voice. The song, by the way, was written by Noriko Maki(真樹のり子) and composed by Eiji Takino(たきのえいじ).

Nowadays, Koizumi is known as a veteran dramatic actress in movies and television. So, it must be somewhat of a surprise to see this cute girl in a puffy pink dress with the Seiko-chan cut. Bon appetit!


The other big surprise is that Koizumi's debut was actually a cover of another song by Madoka Mori(森まどか)in 1979. Titled "Ne, Ne, Ne"ねえ,ねえ,ねえ....Say, Say, Say) except for the title, it is the same song. This was Mori's 2nd of only 3 singles that she has ever released, with her latest one being made in 2007.

Akiko Wada -- Ano Kane wo Narasu no wa Anata (あの鐘を鳴らすのはあなた)



Akiko Wada(和田アキ子)is arguably the lone female power on Japanese TV, up against heavyweights such as Beat Takeshi. Physically and conversationally, she makes quite the presence on the small screen. She has strong opinions which she doesn't hesitate to make loud and clear on her own Sunday morning show, and for the Japanese anyways, her 174 cm (5'8") stature, often has her as the tallest and most imposing person on the stage. She's an actress, a TV personality and commercial pitchperson.

However, she's also known as "The Queen of Japanese R&B", although fans of Misia and AI may take some umbrage at that label as applied to her. Maybe it's better to say that she is the Empress Dowager of old-style Japanese R&B. The music world is where she started when the founder of Hori Productions, one of the big talent agencies in Japan, scouted Wada back in the late 60s. Wada was born in 1950 in Osaka. She is of Korean ancestry and was born as Kim Bok-Ja(金福子) before also taking on the name of Fukuko Kaneumi(金海福子). When she entered the geinokai (show business) and took on Japanese citizenship, she changed her name to Akiko Wada.

Her 11th single, "Ano Kane wo Narasu no wa Anata"(You are the One who Rings That Bell), was released in March 1972. It is a song of hope with a hint of gospel. In the Oricon rankings, it didn't do as well initially as some of her previous hits (it peaked at No. 53), but it has become one of Wada's trademark songs. In fact, she has sung it so often on the year-end Kohaku Utagassen that it could almost be used as the unofficial theme. The song was written by Yu Aku(阿久悠) and composed by Koichi Morita(森田公一) who has composed tunes for Pink Lady and Agnes Chan among other stars.

I was never a huge fan of Akiko Wada but her association with R&B aside (she's reportedly a huge fan of Ray Charles), I've always thought that she still has that link with nostalgic 70s kayo kyoku. By the way, the images in the video above are from the affected prefectures right after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

This is Wada doing a duet of her standard with the lead singer of Hound Dog, Kohei Otomo(大友康平 ).



Kanako Wada -- Tenderness



As I mentioned in my first entry on Kanako Wada(和田加奈子) a week or so ago, her very first album, "Tenderness", released in 1986 has remained just an LP record. It was never even converted into cassette tape, let alone CD. I'd bought my own copy from Wah Yueh just on a whim and because of the cover showing a pensive young Wada sitting on what looks like the desert floor.

To be honest, after playing it on the old record player for the first time, I frankly thought that that was $28 I could've used on something else. Some of the songs just struck me as being a bit too much of the generic synthesized power pop that was being dumped on the airwaves amongst a number of aidoru that have come and gone during the 80s. So after a few more listens, I put Kanako in the corner. But some years later, after I came across her "Dreamin' Lady" from a Japanese commercial, I actually started to appreciate her stuff at the turn of the decade.

(Unfortunately the video for "Passing Through" has been taken down.)

"Passing Through" has been the only song from this album to make it onto any Best compilation by Wada. You might say it's kinda like Pat Benatar-lite: the electric guitar/synth/drum combo, and in the video, you see Kanako singing away in a leather jacket with the necessary pop-rock gravitas (as somewhat oxymoronic as that may sound). Music was provided by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)with lyrics by Neko Oikawa(及川眠子).

(excerpts only)





(Ah, did find one track "Radio ga Kowareta Yoru"/Radio がこわれた夜"
The Night The Radio Died)

The rest of the album consists of songs that I hadn't heard in 25 years, so I'm basically listening to them for the first time....again. Again, a few of the freshly uploaded songs on YouTube still come off as being unremarkable but there are some others such as this one, "Twilight Dinner" that I've started to appreciate a bit more because of the passage of time, and the fact that Wada hadn't quite fit into my still-developing ears for Japanese music of that time. By the same token, I'd given Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) the boot initially as well. Yasuhiro Kido and Kumiko Aoki created this one.
The above site also has "Jealous Girl" which is the first track on Side-A created by Ken Sato(佐藤研)and Akira Ohtsu(大津あきら). A dynamic start to "Tenderness", I think the horns sound as if they were borrowed by Earth Wind & Fire.

(excerpt only)

"Feedback" is the only song that I had originally liked from "Tenderness". It's the final track, and though Kanako's voice seems a bit uncertain and threatens to be overwhelmed by the melody at times, I enjoy the Latin beat and the feeling that Wada is on some sort of musical voyage. Tsugutoshi Goto was responsible for this last song with Keiko Aso(麻生圭子)behind the lyrics.


Ah, finally a YouTube video that I can embed (for now). This is "Toki ni...Hagurete"(時に。。。はぐれて...Missing Out Sometimes)which is Track 2. One of the reasons that I wasn't initially impressed by Wada was that I didn't think she had the strongest vocals for songs that didn't really stand out. And unfortunately the above performance kinda showed that. Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)composed this one with Yoshiaki Sagara(さがらよしあき)providing the lyrics.


On re-discovering "Tenderness" on YouTube, I also found out that Wada has made a small comeback recently, after retiring in 1991. According to J-Wiki, she made an appearance at some sort of surfing event in Chiba Prefecture back in 2010 singing a couple of cover songs. Then, she came out to the same event almost a year later where she sang one of her old hits. You can see it below.

Twenty years later, it sounds like she still has the chops.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Main Course

(excerpts only)

"Main Course", Ruiko Kurahashi's(倉橋ルイ子) 12th album released in March 1986, was the first album that I'd bought by this lovely balladeer at that Chinatown record shop a few decades ago. Her previous albums were known mostly for her lilting adult contemporary songs, but this album had Kurahashi going for a little more of the European sophisticated pop and jazz. In a way, she was following a bit along the lines of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) in the 1980s.

The first track is "Koi Hitosuji ni"恋ひとすじに....Eng. title: I Give My Love to You) which is a ballad of sophisticated pop written by Yu Aku (阿久悠)and composed by Tom Coster, an American keyboardist. Listening to this, you just kinda get this French ennui and champagne feeling.

Track 4 is the torch song "Gas Tou"(ガス燈....Gaslight) which has Ruiko in full jazz mode, complete with shimmering strings, horns and a bluesy sax solo by regular session musician Jake H. Concepcion. Melodically, there are some resemblances to Frank Sinatra's "I'm A Fool To Love You". For me, this is my favourite song on the album. I don't drink, but whenever I hear this, I just want to get a whiskey on the rocks.


The 2nd last track of the album is "The Best In My Life", written by Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美), who wrote a lot of Anri's(杏里) songs. The composer Katsuo Ono(大野克夫) and arranger Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子)definitely made this to be the Whitney Houston entry of the album. It has that soft beginning and ending bracketing an epic soaring climax that has characterized a Whitney ballad. The video above has Kurahashi performing at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo in 2009.

I like to dedicate this album to a fellow Ruiko fan on the Mixi SNS in Japan, C.C. Baxter (yes, named after the beloved Jack Lemmon character in "The Apartment"), on his birthday today. He was very generous a few years ago by providing me with a couple of her increasingly rare CDs, one of which was her debut album, "Without Sugar".


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Top 10 Oricon Rankings for June 1983

1. Hiroko Yakushimaru                   Tantei Monogatari
2. Rats & Star                             "Me"Gumi no Hito
3. Akina Nakamori                         Twilight
4. Naoko Kawai                             Escalation
5. Seiko Matsuda                          Tengoku no Kiss
6. Toshihiko Tahara                       Shower no Kibun
7. Takashi Hosokawa                      Yagiri no Watashi
8. Kozo Murashita                         Hatsukoi
9. Tomoyo Harada                        Toki wo Kakeru Shojo
10. Kyoko Koizumi                        Makka na Onna no Ko

Quite the traffic jam of the aidoru biggies there from 3rd to 6th. In fact, I would say it's probably almost a completely aidoru list, except for the one enka entry by Hosokawa, and "Hatsukoi" by Kozo Murashita.


Taeko Ohnuki -- Signifie


"Signifie" is Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子) 7th solo album released in October 1983. Like her preceding albums with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), the previous one being 1982's "Cliche", this album has its combination of quirky pop tunes partnered with epic and lavish productions. The first track, which is represented below in the video of the entire album, is "Natsu ni Koi Suru Onna Tachi"夏に恋する女たち....The Women Who Love In Summer), one of the latter types which was specifically written for a TBS drama of the same title. It has its own sweeping romantic Gallic grandeur, though not quite on the same scale as its kissing cousin, "Kuro no Clair"黒のクレール...Black Clair) from "Cliche".





The second track is "Genkan" at 4:44(幻感....Fascination), along with the first track, one of my favourite songs on the album.  As its title hints, this song has a synth accordion among other electronics providing a small backdrop of jokey spookiness. But it also shows how good Sakamoto is at marrying technopop with French melodies.

Generally, "Signifie" is perhaps a smaller version of "Cliche" in terms of tone but still well worth getting. There's another song on YouTube that I couldn't bring into the blog called "Signe"  (no worries now) that's also one of my favourites on the album. Despite the return of that synth-accordion, I'd that say that it's more technopop than French, but the key shifts are pretty interesting to listen to.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Puffy -- Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi (これが私の生きる道)


The adorable Puffy girls got their first No. 1 with this song, some 5 months after their debut, "Asia no Junshin"アジアの純真....Purity of Asia). It stayed for 16 weeks on the Oricon charts after its release in October 1996, hitting the top spot on October 21. During its time on the charts, it managed to sell almost 1.6 million copies, and remains their most successful hit. Although the debut song was handled by Yosui Inoue and Tamio Okuda(井上陽水・奥田民生), this time it was Okuda handling both the writing and composing.


The song has that Beatles-esque influence, notably from "Day Tripper" if you listen carefully, although there is a chorus part that seems to reflect "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"at one point. Lyrically, "Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi"(This is the Street Where We Live) talks about the fun and optimistic side of life as Ami and Yumi plainly show in the video while they cruise around California. As for the title, it refers to  a line uttered by one of "The Crazy Cats", a comic Japanese band from the 1950s in which he said "Kore ga Otoko no Ikiru Michi"(This is the Street Where Boys Live). However, for the Puffy Amiyumi fans in the States, the song's English title is "That's the Way It Is".

The song is also on the duo's 2nd album, "JET CD".


Linda Yamamoto -- Kommachauna (こまっちゃうナ)



My image of the vivacious Linda Yamamoto(山本リンダ) has always been her 70s proto-Cougar look of long hair, halter top, and bell-bottoms. But she didn't start out looking all that aggressive. The 1967 Kohaku had her appear for the first time performing her debut single, Kommachauna (What Am I Gonna Do?), which was actually released in September 1966. According to J-Wiki, it did very well and established her aidoru credentials (this was before the Oricon rankings were started). Her mode of dress at that time was somewhat more cute-ish but the energy was already in place. As you can see behind her, some of the other female performers of the time were also shimmying away. Ahhhh.....the 60s.



Minoru Endo(遠藤実)was responsible for both the lyrics and music.

Kiyohiko Ozaki -- Love Theme from "The Godfather"



My mother played this single over and over again of the late Kiyohiko Ozaki's(尾崎紀世彦) rendition of the love theme from "The Godfather"to such an extent that I frankly thought Ozaki had been the original singer all along. Finally seeing the original movie, I had been personally flattered that Francis Ford Coppola would use a Japanese singer's ballad for his masterpiece. Of course, I would be corrected some time later.

Still, Ozaki hits this one out of the park, and I think his performance here, years after he had originally released this as part of his 7th single released in July 1972, has even more gravitas. The single went as high as No. 9 on the charts.

I'm not sure whether there were ever lyrics attached to the love theme in the original movie, but I think Ozaki proved that they should've been in there. To be honest, he kinda looks like Don Corleone in the video.


The 45" of Kiyohiko Ozaki's "Love Theme
from the Godfather"

Hiromi Go -- Oyome Samba (お嫁サンバ)

The boy becomes a man. Well, at least from the first Go entry to this one. In any case, "Oyome Samba"(The Bride Samba) was the very first time I'd ever heard or seen Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ). Of course, as with many of my first songs and singers in kayo kyoku, I saw Hiromi on the 1981 Kohaku. He was all dressed up like a dandy just making out like a Rio hipster (pun intended). Although I couldn't find anything on YouTube from that particular performance, I can say that he was one of the highlights of the show judging from the audience reaction. It's a rousing tune.

"Oyome Samba" was Go's 38th single, and a track on his 17th album, "Plastic Generation". Both were released on May 1, 1981. The song itself managed to peak at No. 6 on the Oricon weeklies and sold about 250,000 copies. It was written by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子), who had also written Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子) "Aoi Sangosho"青い珊瑚礁)a year earlier, and would later write Anri's (杏里)"Cat's Eye".



As I said, I couldn't get his performance on the Kohaku of that year, but I got something just as good. His performance was truncated, but it was on an episode of "The Best 10", the popular music rankings show that ran from 1978-1989 on the Tokyo Broadcasting System. It gained its popularity just as much from its 2 hosts, the hyperactive Tetsuko Kuroyanagi(黒柳徹子) and Hiroshi Kume(久米宏), as it did from its weekly guests.

Along with Go, The Chanels and Kenji Sawada(沢田研二) also appeared. All that consternation before Go's performance was about celebrating Sawada's 33rd birthday.

(March 5 2013....well, whaddaya know....found the Kohaku version)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Anri -- Last Picture Show




This is one of my favourite ballads by Anri(杏里). Not sure if either Anri, who composed it, or Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美), who wrote it, had ever seen " The Last Picture Show", the 1971 Hollywood classic by Peter Bogdanovich. Regardless of the title, though, it's one of those slow and easy groove tunes to be played on the car radio during sunset.

"Last Picture Show" was included on "Meditation", Anri's 4th Best Album in which the emphasis was on ballads. In one way, I thought this album, released in November 1987, represented the singer at a crossroads of sorts, saying goodbye to her first decade of Summer kayo kyoku before taking a huge plunge with her next album, "Boogie Woogie Mainland" half a year later in which she fully embraced an American R&B sound with session musicians from the United States who had worked with bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire. For that reason alone, I would recommend getting this album.




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Miho Nakayama -- Virgin Eyes





I hadn't been that much of a fan of Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)during her early days as an aidoru (1985-1989), although I had known about her through the various Myojo magazines, and had seen her appear on shows like "The Top 10" singing "You're My Only Shining Star". But then I came across this little gem, Miho's 16th single, which had been released just a few weeks before my arrival in Japan in July 1989. It didn't sound like the typical aidoru tune; it had that funky hook with a punchy horn section.

It sounded like Miporin was channeling Anri(杏里)....which indeed she was, since "Virgin Eyes" was composed by the summery singer herself, and written by Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美) who has written several of Anri's songs. Apparently, Nakayama had been a fan of hers from far back. Well, I became a fan of this song, so it became my second purchase of a CD in Japan....after Akina Nakamori's中森明菜"Cruise".

The song was also used as the theme for a movie which was released later in August titled "Docchi ni Suru no"どっちにするの....Who's It Gonna Be?), starring Nakayama and Rie Miyazawa(宮沢りえ). It peaked at No. 2 but spent a few months in the Top 20, and ended up as the 32nd-ranked song of the year. The song was also included in Nakayama's 9th album, "Hide and Seek".




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Akina Nakamori -- Dear Friend






I'd been a huge Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)fan since the mid-80s...even had a poster of hers from an old Myojo magazine hanging on my wall for years. So, it was with shock that I had heard about her attempted suicide in 1989 through reading a tiny article in a Toronto newspaper....of course, this was a few years at least before even electronic bulletin boards came into vogue. I'd gone to Japan to start my new life as a member of the JET Programme at the end of July of that year, just a few weeks after that horrible event. It was rather an eerie feeling seeing her album, "Cruise" getting the heavy promotion in the CD shops at the time. I bought it and it took me a while to warm up to it since the songs seemed so sad and filled with ennui about life.

About a year later, Nakamori started her comeback into show business by releasing "Dear Friend" on July 17, 1990. The cover had her in a carefree, content pose bathed in warm sunlight in what seemed to me as "Hey, I'm OK...you're OK". The song was even more surprising for me. It was a complete turnaround in attitude from any of her tunes in "Cruise". Akina and the music sounded alive and happy....even joyous. That's not only a big contrast from her last album, but basically most, if not all, of her previous hits dating back to her debut in 1982. Even from her earliest songs, there was that feeling of heartbreak and romantic disillusionment....and a note of defiance. I always saw Akina to Seiko in the same way I look at Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney, although my analogy may be stretching things a bit here.

According to J-Wiki, Akina had remarked that "Dear Friend" was her happiest song. A part of me thinks whether some of that happiness which came out of her singing was slightly forced. It just struck me that much. In any case, she would return to her more defiant and darker mode with future releases, but for that brief time in the Summer of 1990, that single stood out like no other in the Nakamori oeuvre.

"Dear Friend" hit No. 1 virtually right from the get-go and on one other date (July 30 and August 13). It was the 6th-ranked song of the year. The song was written by Mayumi Ito(伊東真由美) and composed by Kazuya Izumi(和泉一弥).

I should also get around talking about the B-Side, "Caribbean".


My own copies

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Masahiko Kondo -- Gingiragin ni Sarigenaku (ギンギラギンにさりげなく)



 Another part of the Masahiko Kondo (近藤真彦)juggernaut from 1981. Released in September, just after "Blue Jeans Memory", "Gingiragin ni Sarigenaku"(Cheerfully [?] Nonchalant) had a brief dogfight with Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)"Kaze Tachinu"風立ちぬ) but held onto the top spot for a total of 6 weeks. Furthermore, it got Matchy a Japan Record Award for Best Newcomer, and a spot on the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen. Ultimately, it not only was the 21st-ranked song of the year, but even at the end of 1982, it was ranked 37th.

One of the fellows on YouTube remarked that it was Japanese disco music, and yes, there seems to be a bit of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"-era music in the arrangements. However, I think the adjective for Matchy during his performances of the song in concert or on the TV ranking shows would've been "cute" .

To be honest, I've heard the karaoke version more often than the version sung by Matchy himself. "Gingiragin ni Sarigenaku" was a popular request at Kuri, and the video was hilarious. It featured what looked like a topless model from Abercrombie & Fitch just boogeying around outside. Hoped it paid well, pal. I wanted to find the video on YouTube, but alas the karaoke videos of the song there are much more subdued.

The composer of the song? Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平), who had created Saori Minami's(南沙織) "Juu-nana Sai"17才...17 Years Old) and Miki Hirayama's(平山みき)"Manatsu no Dekigoto"真夏の出来事....A Midsummer Happening)a decade earlier. As for the lyricist, it was Ayumi Date(伊達歩), a pen name for author Shizuka Ijuuin(伊集院静).

Seiko Miki/Yumi Arai -- Machibuse (まちぶせ)




You might consider this a sequel to one of my very earliest entries in this blog. All the way back on January 31 of this year, I wrote about Hitomi Ishikawa's(石川ひとみ) "Machibuse"(Ambush) and how it was one of the first aidoru tunes that I'd ever heard back in 1981. Only recently did I hear that there had been the very first version, some five years earlier.

Seiko Miki (三木聖子)was born in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture in 1956 (ironically, it is also the birthplace of another more famous Seiko). Debuting in a TV drama in 1975 with former Tigers vocalist, Kenji Sawada(沢田研二), she would record and release "Machibuse" in June 1976 as her first single. Written and composed by Yumi Arai(荒井由実), and arranged by Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆), Miki's version has a bit of the Ronnie Spector feel to it. It would get as high as No. 47 on the Oricon charts. The song was also included as one of the tracks on Miki's first and only original album, "Seiko", released in December of that year. Less than 6 months later, she would leave show business.

Currently, Miki has a family and lives in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture where she also runs her own shop called MuMu.


20 years after Miki's recording of "Machibuse", the songwriter herself decided to put her own spin on the song. In 1996, Yuming had long had the last name of Matsutoya but unearthed her maiden name of Arai one more time for this tune. Her approach was much more tongue-in-cheek, having the instrumental backup being all synthesized strings. In addition, in the music video, Matsutoya...sorry, I mean Arai...gussies herself up into a doll-like aidoru, complete with the weirdo body movements and finger gestures. She'd said that she would never write a song for an aidoru (although that is what she did for Seiko Matsuda in the form of "Akai Sweet Pea", albeit under the pseudonym of Karuho Kureta); I guess the video summed up her feelings for the genre...whether they were affectionately satirical or not, I'll leave it to you to decide. In fact, I'll leave it up to you which one of the 3 versions you like. Unfortunately, the original music video has been taken down from YouTube, but I managed to find one of Yuming performing it at one of her glossy concerts.

Yuming's version also one-upped Ishikawa's 1981 "Machibuse" by peaking at No. 5 on Oricon, one rank higher than Ishikawa. It was included in her 28th album, "Cowgirl Dreamin" released in 1997.


Joji Yamamoto -- Michinoku Hitori Tabi (みちのくひとり旅)



This is another one of the entries from that 1981 Kohaku Utagassen(第32回紅白歌合戦) that has been stuck in my mind for over 30 years. The first four singers (Toshihiko Tahara, Naoko Kawai, Masahiko Kondo and Hitomi Ishikawa) were the aidoru, but then out came this strapping young man in a white tux, looking like he either got demobilized from the Self-Defense Forces or stepped away from a baseball team. As soon as the music came on, I knew he would be the first enka singer of the long night.

Joji Yamamoto(山本譲二) gave this muscular performance of what would be his trademark song, "Michinoku Hitori Tabi". I wasn't quite sure about how to translate the title. "Hitori Tabi"was easy enough since it means a lone trip. But Michinoku could geographically refer to a whole chunk of Japan's Tohoku (Northeast) region, or poetically refer to the Heian Era's version of the end of the world. Lyrically, it could go either way. In any case, Yamamoto sings about how he would be happy if he died here and pines about a woman that he may have lost. The performance is very much a manly man's approach....how a lot of male enka singers like to portray themselves, whether as pensive hunks in leather jackets stomping through the forest or as salt-weathered fishing boat captains at the bow of their vessels. It's kinda like the Japanese equivalent of cowboys or Marlboro Men.

Yamamoto's life could have been made into an enka song. Born in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1950, he was one of the players on a high school baseball team that made it into the national championships at Koshien Stadium in Osaka. However, his heart was set on becoming an enka singer. So, he went up to Tokyo and went through a whole series of odd jobs, including being a busboy at a nightclub where he had to drink down any abandoned mugs of beer...even though cigarette butts were inside. After damaging his liver, he scampered back home but after getting some tough love from his mother, he returned to the big city for another stab at stardom.

He had been strumming his guitar at a small pub in Tokyo for a couple of years when songwriter Keisuke Hama(浜圭介), a frequent visitor to the pub, gave him his chance. Yamamoto was given the stage name Haruki Date(伊達春樹) (supposedly as a humourous take on Dirty Harry) and released his first single, "Yogiri no Anata"夜霧のあなた....Night Fog You) in 1974. It flopped, leaving Yamamoto at a precipice of sorts.

Desperate, he begged enka legend Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎) dozens of times for his help. Finally one day, Kitajima thrust his bag out at him. For the next few years, Yamamoto would become his attendant; in Japanese, that would be translated as "kaban-mochi"鞄持ち) or bagholder. Presumably, Kitajima in return gave his young disciple the teachings of enka. In 1976, Yamamoto won on a talent contest program 10 weeks in a row while singing songs like "Omoide Misaki"(おもいで岬....Cape of Memories) and "Naka no Shima Blues"中の嶋ブルース....Internal Island Blues). But the really big breakthrough hadn't happened yet.

Finally in August 1980, he released "Michinoku Hitori Tabi". Kitajima basically told Yamamoto that if this one didn't sell, Yamamoto should just quit show business. It took a very long while but almost a year later in May 1981, the song finally broke into the Oricon rankings at No. 96. And four months later, it would break into the Top 10 at No. 8 and then peaking at No. 4. Talk about the long way to success! And it actually received the Long Seller Prize at the Japan Record Awards. For 1981, "Michinoku Hitori Tabi"would become the 16th-ranked song, and even the year after, it was ranked No. 69 for 1982.

And of course, there was the Kohaku appearance. At the end of the performance, Kitajima himself comes out to congratulate his young Padawan.




Since the televised versions are always truncated, here is the full version of the song. Feel that yamatodamashii大和魂....Japanese spirit) swell up in you!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Princess Princess -- Papa (パパ)


Forgot to do this yesterday on Father's Day, but I think this is the most appropriate J-Pop song that I know to commemorate the day. Princess Princess released this as the song to be coupled with the 1990 hit single, "Oh Yeah!" (not to be confused with Kazumasa Oda's song of the same title).

For a band known for its hard-hitting and fun pop-rock, "Papa" starts with an uncertain piano phrasing to be followed by soft shimmering strings. There is a certain thematic resemblance between it and Madonna's "Papa, Don't Preach" in that a daughter has come to that point where her father is no longer the most important man in her life. However, Princess Princess' contribution to love for one's father is much less controversial, with lead vocalist Kaori Okui (奥居香)going over memories of her father while at the same time wondering how she's gonna tell him about the new man in her life.

 

This is a concert version here. Both Okui and guitarist Kanako Nakayama(中山加奈子) were responsible for "Papa", and both feature in the video. It's a lovely ballad that has always stood out for me in the Princess Princess discography.




Sunday, June 17, 2012

Miki Imai -- Arifureta Love Scene (ありふれた Love Scene)


(cover version)

It's hard for me to choose which Miki Imai(今井美樹)ballad is my very favourite. There are just too many to choose from. But this somewhat underrated one, "Arifureta Love Scene"(A Common Love Scene) from her 1989 album, "Mocha" is up there. Composed by singer-songwriter Chika Ueda(上田千華), it has that somewhat Anita Baker Quiet Storm arrangement to it which appeals to me....it has elements of Smooth Jazz and R&B. It's definitely something to be heard at night. And in a way, it's a bit of a pity about the title....it's quite special to me, actually.

(The music163 link is dead.)

Here is Imai performing the song during a concert tour. The album, by the way, went as high as No. 5 on the Oricon weekly charts, and includes one other song that has been covered in the blog, the crazily-titled "Boogie Woogie Lonesome High Heel".



Goro Noguchi -- Aoi Ringo (青いリンゴ)



Goro Noguchi (野口五郎)was one-third of the media-inspired or talent agency-inspired trio known as the Shin-Gosanke(新御三家), or The New Big Three which also included male aidoru Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ) and Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹). Noguchi was born as Yasushi Sato(佐藤靖) in 1956 in Gifu Prefecture. Singing since he was three years old, his first taste of the spotlight was on a Fuji-TV talent show called "Chibikko Nodo Jiman" in which a 10-year-old Sato won the contest. Apparently, his childhood rival at the time was none other than Yoshimi Tendo(天童よしみ), the accomplished enka singer.

And in fact, he debuted with the target of becoming an enka singer himself in 1971 when his very first record, "Hakata Miren"博多みれん....Hakata Regrets)was released in May. When it turned out to be a flop, his musical direction was quickly changed toward the world of aidoru. And so a mere three months later, he made a second debut of sorts with "Aoi Ringo"(Green Apples), a song of rather sad love. This time, he had a much better response with the song peaking at No. 14 on the Oricon weeklies and selling close to 200,000 records.

His stage name of Goro Noguchi has an interesting origin. One of his parents, an assistant director with Polydor Records, supposedly was the one who coined it. The Hida Mountains, a range that goes through Toyama, Nagano and Noguchi's own Gifu Prefectures, provided the source for his new name. There were a couple of potential choices from a couple of peaks in those mountains, Mt. Noguchi-Goro and Mt. Kurobe-Goro. The tipping point was the higher altitude, and the former peak was the winner at 2,924 m over Kurobe-Goro's 2,840 m. Ironically enough, there have been people who thought that the opposite was true, and that a mountain was named after the singer. In any case, it's one of the more interesting origin stories I've heard for a Japanese singer.


Oricon Top 10 Albums of 1976

1.  Masato Shimon                         Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun
2.  Grape                                     Sannen Zaka
3.  Yumi Arai                                Yuming Brand
4.  Yosui Inoue                              Shoutai no nai Show
5.  Yumi Arai                                 Cobalt Hour
6.  Masatoshi Nakamura                 Omoide no Kakera
7.  Kei Ogura                                Samayoi
8.  Kei Ogura                                Michigusa
9.  Olivia Newton-John                   Come On Over
10. Akira Inaba                              Nanka Ii Wasureta You De

Yuming definitely had a banner year. Not only did she finish 1976 with 2 albums in the Top 10 but there were two more albums ranked at No. 11 (Hikoki Gumo) and at No. 14 (Misslim). Grape was Masashi Sada's(さだまさし) old folk group. But the year of the Montreal Summer Olympics was also the year of the taiyaki!


Masato Shimon -- Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun (およげ!たいやきくん)

First off, a little lesson on Japanese confections. The above is taiyaki, a sweet bean paste-filled cake made in the shape of tai, or sea bream. The crisp outer shell is made from a pancake or waffle batter. It can be found basically anywhere in Japan, but in Tokyo, if you head over to Asakusa, you're guaranteed in finding a place that makes the stuff. I've had taiyaki myself a few times on visits to the metropolis' traditional quarter.



Now, to the story of this unlikely children's song which has become immortalized in Japanese music legend. "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun"(Swim! Taiyaki) is a tune about a taiyaki which manages to find temporary emancipation until his inevitable end. Written by Hiroo Takada(高田ひろお) and composed by Juichi Sase(佐瀬寿一), it had been created as one of the songs for the long-running Fuji-TV kids' show, "Hirake Ponkikki".

It had been first sung on the show in early October 1975 by folk singer Keitaro Ikuta(生田敬太郎). But when an accident suddenly waylaid Ikuta for some time, singer Masato Shimon(子門真人) came to the rescue and helped in sending the song into the sales stratosphere. Released as a single on Christmas Day 1975, it soon got huge demands in the record stores in the New Year. In fact, it debuted at No. 1 on January 5 1976 and stayed there for 11 straight weeks. I don't think a real taiyaki would have quite that sort of staying power.

It also reached another yet-to-be topped record by becoming the biggest selling single of all time at 4.5 million records, something that has been noted in The Guinness Book of World Records. And so the question is begged to be asked: what was up with this taiyaki? The answer isn't a profound one. According to J-Wikipedia, it just seemed the perfect storm of melody, Shimon's voice and that mysterious ability to entrance adults as well as the little ones. There have been further examples of a children's song reaching that sort of success: one was "Dango San Kyodai"団子3兄弟....The Three Dumpling Brothers) in 1999, and perhaps a case can be made for 1990's No. 1 song, "Odoru Ponpokorin"おどるポンポコリン....Dancing Ponpokorin), the theme song for anime "Chibi Maruko Chan". And in fact, "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" was the No. 1 song for 1976. The eponymous album also reached the exact same heights for the year.

I think that video has also reached a certain legendary status.

(starts at 1:56)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hiromi Ohta -- Minami Kaze (南風)



This is a summer song that still gets me giddily nostalgic every time I hear it....30 years after I'd first heard it. And it was the very first Hiromi Ohta (太田裕美)song that I listened to. It's just one of those tunes that bonks me on the head about why I got into this crazy field in the first place. "Minami Kaze"(South Wind) is just....fun. I wasn't quite sure how to classify it, though. Was it truly an aidoru tune? Ohta's voice seemed to have gotten a bit richer and deeper for this one, and the arrangements were a bit more attuned to West Coast Pop, but ultimately I kept it on the aidoru side instead of taking it to pop since Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)big hit, "Aoi Sangosho"青い珊瑚礁), also released in the same year, has some similarities in terms of sound.

"Minami Kaze" was written and composed by Kazuya Amikura(網倉一也). He contributed to songs by other 80s aidorus such as Yoshie Kashiwabara(柏原よしえ) and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子), along with helping out on Ruiko Kurahashi's(倉橋ルイ子) debut song "Glass no Yesterday"ガラスのYesterday) already listed on this blog. It went as high as No. 22 on the Oricon charts after its release in March 1980 as her 18th single.




The above video is from her performance on "Yoru no Hit Studio", a Fuji-TV music program.




"Minami Kaze"was also used as a commercial song for Kirin Orange Soda. Ahhhhh....brings back memories....of cute Japanese commercials.

Well, that was my spotlight on Summer kayo kyoku. But I'll still continue finding and highlighting these tunes as I remember them.

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Niagara



Just a little over an hour ago, professional daredevil Nik Wallenda of The Flying Wallendas did what he had always dreamed of doing: crossing over Niagara Falls via the highwire. I'm not sure if it got that much press beyond North America, but I'm sure if you check CNN or some of the other news sites, the story will be there.


But being the schmaltzy guy I am, I decided to dedicate this song to him since he did the stunt to inspire people not to give up on their dreams (plus the money couldn't be that bad either...nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Heck, I fulfilled my dream....I got to live in Japan for 17 years. And I'm fulfilling one now by working on this blog!

Anyways, Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美) is now in full chanteuse mode instead of the cute callow aidoru she was back in the 1970s. This is her 1983 cover of a Barbra Streisand tune (written and composed by Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch for Babs' 1979 album "Wet") that got onto her album of American standard covers titled "Disney Girl" that had been released in October of that year. It peaked at No. 20 on the album charts.



For comparison, I give you the amazing Barbra Streisand!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kanako Wada -- Natsu no Mirage (夏のミラージュ)





Kanako Wada(和田加奈子) is one of my favourites who just seemed to fly under the radar during her brief career (1985-1991). She never became a superstar but she did have (and still has) that rich voice to go with some pretty clever melodies. In addition, she seemed to have been the go-to singer for theme songs when it came to one of the most popular anime of the 1980s, "Kimagure Orange Road"きまぐれ・.オレンジ☆ロード).

"Natsu no Mirage"(Summer Mirage) was the ending theme for the show. Written by Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composed by Tsukasa, it's a fun upbeat tune notable for the languid Beatles-esque guitar and soaring vocals by Wada. The song was also included as the first track on her 3rd album, "Esquisse", released in August 1987. The single itself had been released a couple of months earlier.




And this was the song as it was used at the end of KOR.



Miki Hirayama -- Manatsu no Dekigoto (真夏の出来事)



Just to show that not all summer J-Pop came from the 80s, here is another kayo kyoku classic from 1971 with Miki Hirayama(平山みき). "Manatsu no Dekigoto" (Midsummer Happening) has Hirayama weaving her thoughts of an ideal date involving a car and a beach. Released in May 1971, this was just Hirayama's 2nd single after debuting with "Beautiful Yokohama"a year earlier. The second time was the charm since this would become Hirayama's biggest hit.

Written by Jun Hashimoto(橋本淳)and composed by the prolific Kyohei Tsutsumi『筒美京平』 (Kiyohiko Ozaki, Hiromi Iwasaki and Yu Hayami were just a small fraction of his clientele), the song won an award for composition at the 1971 Japan Record Awards. It went as high as No. 5 on the Oricon weeklies, and finished the year as the 37th-ranked single.

(December 26 2013: Unfortunately the powers-that-be have taken down the lone video for the techno version of "Manatsu no Dekigoto".)

Strangely enough, the first time I had heard this song was actually through its cover version in 1982. By transposing a couple of her kana in her name, she became Miki Himalaya(ヒマラヤミキ), and with a unit called MODOKEES, gave a somewhat techno-ized and sped-up version of the song. At the time, with the Yellow Magic Orchestra being at the top of the charts and my interest in them, I was quite keen on this version, having never been aware of the original for several more years. Amazing what some imagination and a good synthesizer can do.