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, March 25, 2017

Top 10 Albums in Oricon History

1.  Hikaru Utada                       First Love                      7.7 million     1999
2.  B'z                                       B'z The Best "Pleasure" 5.1 million     1998
3.  GLAY                                 Review-Best of GLAY   4.8 million     1997
4.  Hikaru Utada                      Distance                          4.5 million     2001
5.  B'z                                       B'z The Best "Treasure" 4.4 million     1998
6.  Ayumi Hamasaki                A BEST                           4.3 million     2001
7.  globe                                   globe                               4.1 million     1996
8.  Hikaru Utada                      Deep River                      3.6 million     2002
9.  Mai Kuraki                         Delicious Way                 3.5 million     2000
10. Southern All Stars             Umi no Yeah!!                 3.5 million     1998



Yuko Asano -- Hanbun Aishite (半分愛して)



I've seen Yuko Asano(浅野ゆう子)mostly as an actress and as a regular presence on commercials so it was pretty surprising to hear her singing something like this. I mean, I've already written on a couple of songs from her early aidoru period that I had already been aware about through all sorts of retrospectives on TV.

But little did I know that she even tackled the smooth sounds of City Pop/J-AOR which her 17th single "Hanbun Aishite" (Love Me By Half) falls solidly into. Released in 1980, Asano channels Junko Yagami(八神純子)very well through this song penned by lyricist Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)who are veterans at the genre. Had no idea that she could croon a tune like this. It makes for a nice evening down by Tokyo Bay. I can only wonder what other City Pop delights she came up with at the time.


Keizo Nakanishi -- Eien no Namae (永遠の名前)


I haven't heard much from songsmith Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)although I have heard that he's still out there performing. However, I think his best days were in the 1990s and so I'm happy that I've got what I think is his best work with his 4th album "Starting Over" from March 1994 which I had a chance to write about back in 2013.


One of the tracks from "Starting Over" that I didn't get to talk about at that time was "Eien no Namae" (Eternal Name). It's not particularly a ballad nor is it a really uptempo tune; it's just a simple mid-tempo love song. But although it probably won't go down as one of the most notable examples of Nakanishi's discography, his vocals and the calming arrangement by Shingo Kobayashi(小林信吾)still make it a very pleasant song to listen to.

Kanata Asamizu(朝水彼方)provided the lyrics while Nakanishi came up with the music which has that feeling of springtime...something that a lot of us here are still waiting for although the season has officially been here for almost a week.

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Shinayaka ni Utatte (しなやかに歌って)


"Shinayaka ni Utatte" (Sing Delicately) was Momoe Yamaguchi's(山口百恵)27th single released in September 1979, and for those who know about the singer's discography throughout the 1970s, the latter half of the decade had her singing some more muscular songs as a jaded take-no-prisoners woman who plays men like a Stradivarius a la "Imitation Gold". "Shinayaka ni Utatte" was indeed created by the husband-and-wife team of Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木燿子)who had been behind those very songs.


And yet, "Shinayaka ni Utatte" was quite a different animal. It didn't have any of those urgent strings or wailing electric guitar, the song came across to me as being quite Hawaiian in feeling; more relaxing and rhythmical like a hula dance for a Don Ho ballad rather than speeding and screaming like a Ferrari being driven by a scorned woman. However, Aki's lyrics still related the story of lost love and the woman trying to get over the end of the romance. Perhaps it's rather indicative of the times that one of the lyrics describes the lass putting on a pair of roller skates and scooting down the road...maybe she'll hit a disco later that night to boogie.


I've gotta make a slight detour over here and talk about that adverb in the title shinayaka ni. I looked it up at jisho.org and I got definitions such as flexibly and elastically. But I wasn't sure whether either of those words would be appropriate as the translation. At the same time, though, there was the word delicately, which I still don't think is ultimately the best word but perhaps it is the best I can do for now.

Still, the Uzaki-Aki-Yamaguchi collaboration was another relative success although "Shinayaka ni Utatte" didn't hit the big heights like its tougher cousins. It peaked at No. 8 on Oricon and won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards before finishing the year as the 55th-ranked single as it was also placed as a track on Momoe's 19th album "Harutsugedori"(春告鳥...Bush Warbler)which peaked at No. 5. The song also got Yamaguchi an invitation for her final of 6 straight appearances on the Kohaku Utagassen.

Not sure whether the song was meant to come out just before this particular earth-shattering announcement by Yamaguchi, but just several weeks after "Shinayaka ni Utatte" had been released, the singer announced her relationship with actor Tomokazu Miura(三浦友和)which probably broke a lot of hearts out there in the fandom. I could imagine that many of them took those lyrics and swallowed them repeatedly. Of course, the following year, Yamaguchi and Miura would marry and the former would retire for good.


Here is Okinawan singer Rimi Natsukawa(夏川りみ)with her cover of "Shinayaka ni Utatte".

Thursday, March 23, 2017

w-inds -- Forever Memories


Last month, Marcos V. wrote the blog's first entry for w-inds, "LOVE IS THE GREATEST THING", and I just went "Well, that's a name I haven't heard in a long time!"

Like Marcos, I was never a fan of the aidoru group but I do remember their debut single back when it was released in March 2001, "Forever Memories". Well, actually, I didn't remember the title but there was the original music video which had lead vocalist Keita Tachibana(橘慶太)sing in that really cute high voice. I had to wonder how old the lad was, and frankly speaking, for the first couple of times that I had the seen the video, I was rather stuck on whether I was watching a boy or a tomboy.

It didn't help that the song which was written and composed by Hiroaki Hayama(葉山拓亮)sounded just as cute (and I have to admit that I didn't recollect hearing a soprano sax in a turn-of-the-century aidoru tune then or since) . "Forever Memories" sounded as if it had been made for the elementary school set although Tachibana and his two bandmates Ryohei Chiba(千葉涼平)and Ryuichi Ogata(緒方龍一)could bust a move like the folks at SMAP and Arashi(嵐). But w-inds was never a Johnny's group; it belonged to Rising Production.


"Forever Memories" made it all the way up to No. 12 on Oricon and ended up as the 91st-ranked song for 2001. It was also a track on w-inds' debut album "w-inds.〜1st message〜" which had been released in December of that year and hit the top spot on the charts.


Yumi Seino -- Katamuku (傾く)


I've seen this singer Yumi Seino(清野由美)on YouTube for the past number of months but did not notice her within the pages of "Japanese City Pop". And although she's not profiled on J-Wiki, she has received some acknowledgement on a Japanese-language music blog that I've referred to in the past, "Music Avenue". Even the writer there has stated that considering her low profile, it would be surprising if any of her presumably 3 albums ever got converted to CD. Well, that article was written over 10 years ago, and apparently someone in the recording industry had a heart and did have at least two of the albums turned into CDs according to what I saw at CD Japan.


For that "Music Avenue" blog entry, the writer kaz-shin mentioned that the first album "U-TA-GE" which came out in 1981 had a sound reminiscent of Akira Terao's(寺尾聡)City Pop classic "Reflections". However, with today's article, I'm going with a track from Seino's 3rd album "Continental" titled "Katamuku" (Leaning In) which was written by Masami Sugiyama(杉山政美)and composed by Seino herself.

Released in January 1983, I found out on another page which gave a short review of the album that her sound had changed. And listening to "Katamuku", I did get the impression that although that City Pop feeling was there, there was also some of that blippity-bloppity technopop sound so my overall impression of the song was something closer to Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)poppier tunes from around the same time. Maybe there is even a certain amount of EPO tossed in as well.

Also listening to "Katamuku", I wasn't quite sure whether the YouTube video had gotten a good recording especially with the saxophone solo which sounded kinda wobbly. It almost sounded like something from a weird dreamy burlesque show directed by David Bowie. Basically, I could compare the version I've heard here to pineapple on pizza....I can take it just fine (I fully realize that others won't go near the stuff) but there's something a tad odd about a fruit so tangy sweet on an Italian classic. For the record, my favourite slice is pepperoni, although at Pizza Hut, I always like to grab a Meat Lovers'.

I would be interested in getting "Continental" someday in the near future just to listen to it as originally recorded. As for that matter, I want to get that debut album by Seino as well since that reportedly hewed toward the full City Pop. And frankly, if it has been compared to "Reflections", then it has gotten my attention.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

RAMU -- Rainy Night Lady


My friend and collaborator JTM wrote an article a few years ago on the band RAMU (ラ・ムー) and their song "Shonen wa Tenshi wo Korosu"(少年は天使を殺す). He did a great job in talking about the overall amorphous nature of a group that had a mid-80s aidoru in the form of Momoko Kikuchi(菊池桃子)providing vocals with Yoshikazu Matsuura(松浦義和)and Nozomu Nakanishi(中西望)from the fusion group Prism (プリズム) coming in as keyboardist and drummer respectively along with another guitarist and two backup singers. Was RAMU going for a rock sound or was it trying for something R&B? Perhaps it was going for a taste of both via fusion or maybe even late-decade City Pop.


The first time I saw RAMU was on an episode of "The Best 10" when they appeared to perform the aforementioned "Shonen wa Tenshi wo Korosu" presumably (my memory is a bit fuzzy but since JTM had remarked that the song was their only bona fide hit, I'm making that assumption). Although I certainly didn't have the insights back then that JTM had when he wrote about the song in the blog, I do remember that I was pretty intrigued seeing Miss "Say Yes!" Kikuchi in some pretty slinky clothing singing something that was definitively non-aidoru. I couldn't quite categorize what I was hearing though. So, by the end of the performance, I was going "Uhhh..."

Listening to "Rainy Night Lady" which was the first track on RAMU's only album from September 1988, "Thanks Giving", I can say that I've got a better handle on the music now than when I was still a pretty callow guy of the 1980s. Still, even though the band has been categorized on J-Wiki as a rock group, "Rainy Night Lady" isn't a rock song by my definition. It's perhaps closer to the mellow urban material that Omega Tribe (オメガトライブ) was singing at the time, and that's not too surprising since it was composed by Tsunehiro Izumi(和泉常寛), who helped out in making two hits for that band, "Kimi wa 1000%"(君は1000%)and "Aquamarine no Mama de ite"(アクアマリンのままでいて)with Shun Taguchi(田口俊)providing lyrics.


I guess the best way to describe it is imagining Momoko taking the place of Anri(杏里)in one of her 80s songs. Having an aidoru like her with those high-tone vocals fronting RAMU might seem a bit odd but from working on this blog over the past 5 years, I have realized to my surprise that the singer had been performing City Pop-like tunes for her albums when she was an aidoru in contrast with those aidoru singles that she sang on the music shows. Perhaps recruiting her into RAMU may not have been completely out of left field.

I don't know how "Thanks Giving" did on the charts although I can imagine that it did get somewhere on the charts due to Momoko's fame. Still, RAMU had a short shelf life and perhaps acquiring that lone album would be quite interesting for an 80s Japanese music guy like myself just to hear what they were trying to accomplish musically.

Haruo Minami/Aya Shimazu/Keisuke Yamauchi -- Tawaraboshi Genba (俵星玄蕃)


Ever since encountering "Jan Naito Jan" (ジャン・ナイト・じゃん), I have always been marveling about how incredible Haruo Minami's (三波春夫) rapping ability was. However, I discovered that in the genre he's known for, rokyoku, there's rapid-fire narration, and I found that out through listening to "Tawaraboshi Genba" in its entirety. The veteran's delivery of this lengthy bit was incredibly fast yet articulate, and so that made me realise, in a sense he was technically rapping even before he decided to deviate a little from enka, and "Jan Naito Jan" was probably a piece of cake for him compared to his iconic hit decades before.

Here's "Jan Naito Jan" for reference.

To give some background info on "Tawaraboshi Genba" or "Genroku Mei Sofu Tawaraboshi Genba (元禄名槍譜 俵星玄蕃): It isn't your typical kayo-rokyoku. It falls under the category of Chouhen Kayo-Rokyoku (長編歌謡浪曲... long kayo-rokyoku). Creating this sub-genre was Minami himself who sought to revive this narrative style of singing that seemed to be dying by the end of WWII. A rokyoku song is usually quite a long one, and from what I've tried to watch (not very much, really) it can be rather draggy/boring. So, what Minami did was to condense a rokyoku story into a (comparatively) short and sweet package combined with enka-yo to make it more appealing to audiences that can be easily bored (like me). The narrative that was shortened here is Chushingura (忠臣蔵... The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), which refers to fictional tale that revolves around the Forty-seven Ronin's plot to avenge their master's death - the real historical event is called the Ako Incident. Minami had penned this rendition under his pen name Touji Kitamura (北村桃児).

60's Minami... don't get to see that all that often, now that I think of it.

Anyway, due to its length "Tawaraboshi Genba" isn't a tune I listen to all that much - also because my Minami compilation album doesn't have it. But recently I have developed a lot more appreciation for this kayo-rokyoku. The music, brought to you by renowned showa era composer, Yoshiji Nagatsu (長津義司), sounded like three different enka melded into one. It starts off noble - a little like "Yawara" (), then dips into something like a slightly jauntier version of "Otone Mujou" (大利根無情), after which the score picks up to become something akin to a crazier, faster paced "Ippon Doko no Uta" (いっぽんどっこの唄), before finally ending on that grand note it began with. 

We also have Minami's delivery - by far my favourite part of "Tawaraboshi Genba" - which was as much of a roller coaster ride as the accompanying melody. As in "Otone Mujou", the fun comes when the expressions of the rokyoku master change fluidly like the face-changing characters in Chinese operas. One moment he's his usual beaming self that welcomes all with his chirpy vocals, the next his eyes have a murderous glint and he's screaming like a mad man and ruffling that neatly gelled back hair. Of course, there's also that intense "rapping" session - kinda sounds like chanting - I mentioned at the start of the article, so on a whole, "Tawaraboshi Genba" turned out to be more entertaining to me that what I had originally assumed.

"Tawaraboshi Genba" was released a number of times, most notably in April 1964 (original release) and in October 1992, the latter of which was actually a self cover rap mix with... an easy-going reggae version of "Sekai no Kuni kara Konnichiwa" (世界の国からこんにちは). Minami had sung the original twice on the Kohaku, the first being during his 7th appearance in 1964 and the second during his 31st and last appearance in 1999. Since it is a long song of about almost 9 minutes (about two/three normal enka songs long), most of the rokyoku portion was cut out when it was sung on TV due to time constraints.


A number of enka performers have attempted this kayo-rokyoku, and the ones I tend to see a lot are those by Aya Shimazu (島津亜矢) and Keisuke Yamauchi (山内惠介). Both are respectable but I have to say that Shimazu manages to convey the high intensity of "Tawaraboshi Genba" better than Yamauchi does.



That's one apt pic of Minami right there!
blogs.yahoo.co.jp/kabukimedakabenkei/folder/606860.html?m=lc

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mariko Nagai -- YOU AND I


Ah...yes. "Yawara!" That fashionable judo girl. The anime series lasted longer than the time I was in Gunma Prefecture on the JET Programme so I missed out on the final season. Not that I could be a regular viewer of the show on Monday nights anyways since I was regularly asked to dinner to have some English conversation with an elderly couple then.


Well, watching that loopy-and-flashy opening credits sequence that regularly launched a "Yawara!" episode, it looks like the final season finally saw the show's raison d'etre, namely young Yawara Inokuma achieving her mission to make it to the 1992 Barcelona Games for a medal in judo, come to fruition. I never saw that final season but I hope that she did get that Gold.

Also, I didn't know that perky Mariko Nagai(永井真理子)had one more go-round with the opening theme song. My very first Nagai article was "Miracle Girl" which served as the opening theme for Season 1, and so Nagai performed the theme for Season 3, "YOU AND I"...not to be confused with Keizo Nakanishi's(中西圭三)soul tune with the same title that came out a year later.


Nope, Nagai's "YOU AND I" was written and composed by singer-songwriter Taizo Jinnouchi(陣内大蔵)as her 16th single in April 1992. It is a song that I had heard before although I didn't know about its connection with "Yawara!" and it plays to her usual strengths of happy and inspiring. The song broke into the Oricon Top 10 getting as high as No. 7. I wouldn't have asked for a better song to finish the series on.

Light Mellow


Commenter Gen Kanai contacted me a few nights ago asking about whether I would talk about the "Light Mellow" series of CDs since I've often referred to them on specific articles. And seeing that I've written on a couple of other series "Good Times Diva" and "Seishun Uta Nenkan"(青春歌年鑑), I went "Why not?"


Unlike those first two series which I found out about when I was living in Japan at the turn of the century, "Light Mellow" was something I discovered after returning home to Toronto for good; I had a chance encounter with one of their campaign YouTube videos and listening to the sample tracks on one of its albums "Breeze", I realized that the series concentrated on J-AOR and City Pop. The love lights suddenly flashed on in my head! Plus that title and the calming design of the cover had me thinking air freshener...and I do love me a good air freshener.


To make another comparison with "Good Times Diva" and "Seishun Uta Nenkan", the various songs from the "Light Mellow" series are not Oricon-friendly hits and mostly fall within the underwater 90% of that J-Pop iceberg which I've found to be the case with the genres of J-AOR and City Pop. There are a few songs that have become recognizable to listeners at large but the vast majority of them are tunes that are either somewhat more obscure album-only tracks by famous singers such as EPO and Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)or complete revelations to me by folks that I had never heard about. Basically for me and the blog, "Light Mellow" has been quite the manna from heaven!


I've also already spoken of some of the songs on the blog because I discovered them through "Light Mellow" such as "Parallel=" (パラレル=) by Fumiya Sashida(指田郁也)and "Day Dreamin'" by little-known R&B unit Chocolate Lips, and one of the nice things about the series has been that producers have been able to put up tracks that had never been committed to CD before such as that latter song. For those who have enjoyed listening to some of the Future Funk or whatever they're calling those certain remixes these days by Artzie Music or Yung Bae, I would say that this series could be a nice medium to find out where they all began. But heck, anyone who likes their Steely Dan or Doobie Brothers and doesn't mind the Japanese language can get into "Light Mellow".


According to their website, the series was released during the years of 2014 and 2015 and if I have counted correctly, a total of 24 compilation albums have been released. But as you can also see above, the producers also released albums focusing on specific artists of the genre. Up to this point, I've been able to get a few of those discs and hopefully I can procure a few more.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Masataka Matsutoya -- Kiri no Orita Asa (霜の降りた朝)

www.billboard-japan.com

The name Matsutoya for listeners of Japanese popular music almost always conjures up one other name: Yuming (ユーミン), aka Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実). As for any "Kayo Kyoku Plus" reader who's leafed through the Labels section, my Yuming file is one of the larger categories in the blog, and a good majority of the entries are of her 1970s and 1980s material when she was both Yumi Arai(荒井由実)and Yumi Matsutoya.

Then, there is the other Matsutoya, Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆), Yuming's husband and a longtime music producer & musician who has been represented on this blog via a few entries for other singers. Of course, he's been involved with his wife's projects but I've never heard his voice in a singing capacity. And if the information that I found in J-Wiki is correct, then he would have tried not to get himself behind a mike for recording purposes.

However, apparently to fulfill contractual obligations way back when, he ended up recording his only solo album for release in November 1977. Titled "Yoru no Tabibito"(夜の旅人...Night Travelers), it's been described in the book "Japanese City Pop" by Yutaka Kimura(木村ユタカ)on Page 34 as "...a must-have for City Pop fans", and according to J-Wiki, the album cover was designed by Yuming herself. As it is, though, Masataka pointed out in 2013 on his own radio program on Radio Nippon that he has only listened to "Yoru no Tabibito" a smattering of times since it was recorded.


I've only listened to one track from the album (all of the songs were written and composed by him), "Kiri no Orita Asa" (The Morning The Fog Rolled In), and no, I don't think Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)or Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)ever curled in a corner in fear of his abilities but he's not bad on this relaxing song which seems to veer from epic balladry to something that is almost as sing-songy as a children's tune. I wouldn't call this particular track an example of City Pop by any means, though. It's probably more along the lines of New Music, and it might be personal bias on my part, but Masataka sang it in the way that Yuming would have (is that actually her I hear in the background?) at the time. I would probably equate it with anything that Gilbert O. Sullivan released.

Masataka may not ever put "Kiri no Orita Asa" or the other tracks on "Yoru no Tabibito" on heavy rotation, but I certainly would be interested in getting my hands on the album. Although it may be hard to acquire, I don't think it's one of the rarest of the rare since J-Wiki has said that a Blu-Spec CD of "Yoru no Tabibito" was released in 2015.

Hiroshi Itsuki -- Shinjuku Eki kara (新宿駅から)


When I first came to live in the Tokyo area in the mid-1990s, Shinjuku was separated into the gleaming skyscraper area in West Shinjuku and the raucous and slightly grimy East Shinjuku with all sorts of bars, restaurants, department stores and red-light facilities. But about 10 years ago, South Shinjuku suddenly came alive starting with the Takashimaya Times Square complex, and even since my last visit, I've read that things have further developed in the area. But all things start from that central hub, Shinjuku Station.


And I've got a song about that place and by one of the big guns in enka himself, Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし). In fact, this was his debut as a teenager back in 1965. The thing is, though, that he didn't debut as Hiroshi Itsuki.

To explain, a few nights ago, I wrote an article about singer Shigeo Kusunoki(楠木繁夫)who was known to have 55 stage names. Well, although Itsuki didn't start his long and illustrious career amassing stage names like a stamp collection, he did have a few professional aliases before he finally settled on his most famous name. Born Kazuo Matsuyama(松山数夫)in 1948, he debuted as Masaru Matsuyama(松山まさる)and that debut song was "Shinjuku Eki kara" (From Shinjuku Station).

Written by Tetsuya Furuno(古野哲也)and composed by Gento Uehara(上原げんと), "Shinjuku Eki kara" may start out like a Mood Kayo but since the lyrics talk about a trip from Shinjuku Station back to the ol' hometown in the countryside, it quickly reverts to an enka style. The above video is of an Itsuki performance from 2004 on the cusp of his 40th anniversary in show business where he sang all of his very early songs under those various pre-Itsuki names. I was quite impressed actually. I didn't really expect Itsuki to cover all those tunes since they were not only not under his most established name but it didn't look like any of them became hits before his big breakthrough of "Yokohama Tasogare" (よこはま・たそがれ).


The above is a cover version, by the way. Although the pre-Itsuki output didn't result in any hits, I think any of his tunes back then would be worthy of exploration. For the record, between Masaru Matsuyama and Hiroshi Itsuki, the future superstar also went by the names of Eiichi Ichijo(一条英一)and Ken Mitani(三谷謙).

Dreams Come True -- Anata ni Aitakutte (あなたに会いたくて)


This was before I saw them on that fateful Music Station episode, before Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和)with that wide-as-the-Mississippi smile launched into "Ureshihazukashi Asagaeri" (うれしはずかし朝帰り) when I first started out on the JET Programme.


Believe it or not, Dreams Come True did have two prior singles before "Ureshihazukashi Asagaeri" started the band on their way to super success way into the 90s. Their debut single was "Anata ni Aitakutte" (Wanting To Meet You) which came out in March 1989, and listening to it, I don't think I would put it among their most popular hits (and it didn't get into the rankings) but the ingredients of DCT were there: Yoshida's boomer voice, that synth sound that seemed to come in from another country, and, even watching her performing the song, that neck jive.


"Anata ni Aitakutte" was also on their debut album "Dreams Come True" which was released on the same day as the single. That release got as high as No. 27 on Oricon and actually ended up as the 88th-ranked album for the year 1993! Talk about late bloomers! From an original output of 8000 albums, by June 1994, that first album sold 900,000 copies, going Double Platinum.

From such humble beginnings, dreams came true for Dreams Come True.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Miyu Tomita, Saori Onishi, Naomi Ozora and Kana Hanazawa -- Hallelujah Essaim (ハレルヤ☆エッサイム)


Had another anime-and-food outing with my friend today. It's hard to believe that the Winter 2017 season is approaching its end, especially since we've been enjoying more shows than we had expected this time around. It'll be a pity to see them go.


One of those shows has been "Gabriel Dropout" (ガヴリールドロップアウト) with the episodic hilarity involving two teen angels and two teen demons in the same high school. I've already written about the earworm opening theme "Gabriel Dropkick" (ガヴリールドロップキック) starring the seiyuu behind those 4 characters: Miyu Tomita(富田美憂), Saori Onishi(大西沙織), Naomi Ozora(大空直美)and Kana Hanazawa(花澤香菜).

Well, they're also at it again with the ending theme "Hallelujah Essaim". I had to look up what essaim means, and apparently it is the French word for swarm. I'm not quite sure what the connection is, though.


Written by Ryuji Sakai(坂井竜二)and composed by Shingo Yamazaki(山崎真吾), it wasn't quite the immediate earworm for me that "Gabriel Dropkick" was but it's grown on me gradually over the weeks. And it has that similar back-and-forth banter among the seiyuu while the rock and techno (a bit of chip tune, perhaps?) are blasting away. From what I could get from Sakai's lyrics, it sounds like I'm hearing how the girls really feel for each other despite all the over-the-top bickering in the episodes.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra & Tamio Okuda -- Utsukushiku Moeru Mori (美しく燃える森)


It's been a while since I've posted anything by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra(東京スカパラダイスオーケストラ)so I've forgotten how much these guys can swing. Time to rectify that matter.


So I offer you "Utsukushiku Moeru Mori" (The Beautifully Flaming Woods) which is TSPO's 22nd single from February 2002. Written by saxophonist Atsushi Yanaka(谷中敦)and composed by bassist Tsuyoshi Kawakami(川上つよし), I'm not sure what the title and the lyrics are quite talking about but I can't deny the kakkoii bounciness of the beat. Plus, they get some smoothly raspy (a weird description, I know) vocals from singer-songwriter Tamio Okuda(奥田民生)from Unicorn. The ska beat is indeed in there but there is also a good dollop of pop to keep things nice and mellow. I like the video as well...nothing too fancy; just all of the performers showing off what they do best.


"Utsukushiku Moeru Mori" went as high as No. 4 on Oricon and ended 2002 ranked at No. 60 going Gold. The single also made it onto the Orchestra's 9th album "Stompin' On DOWN BEAT ALLEY" from May 2002 which hit No. 1 and became the 42nd-ranked album of the year. Pretty nice way to finish a Saturday night.

Tetsuo Saito -- Ima no Kimi wa Pikapika ni Hikatte (いまのキミはピカピカに光って)


Bringing in a bit more summer to you through this song and the commercial that it will eternally be attached to. Yoshiko Miyazaki(宮崎美子)is a veteran actress and tarento who I've seen as this very smiley and kindly presence on the various shows she's appeared on. However, her default image will always be the one she presented on a Minolta commercial way back in 1980 while in her early 20s. It's the one where she stripped off her T-shirt and jeans to reveal her buxom figure in a blue bikini. It's often the case that when she appears on a variety show, that particular commercial will be shown.


Of course, there is that campaign song which came with the ad titled "Ima no Kimi wa Pikapika ni Hikatte" (You Are Now Sparkling) by singer-songwriter Tetsuo Saito(斉藤哲夫). Categorized as a folk and New Music singer, Saito's June 1980 single though has much more of a mainstream summery pop feel to it. Written by Shigesato Itoi(糸井重里)and composed by Keiichi Suzuki(鈴木慶一)of The Moonriders, the singer delivers this hit as if he were just strumming away at his guitar while sitting by a palm tree and admiring Miss Miyazaki from afar.

I think the song and commercial are pretty much tied at the hip now and forever since whenever I see the latter, I will always hear the former. "Ima no Kima wa Pikapika ni Hikatte" peaked at No. 9 on Oricon.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Asako Toki/Magokoro Brothers/Bird -- Summer Nude (サマーヌード)


At this point, I think I have two albums by the velvety-voiced Asako Toki(土岐麻子), one of them being in the shot above. Still love that cover design for her 2011 "Light" album which is a BEST collection for the Tokyo-born singer.

She may have been born in The Big Sushi but for my own reasons, I've seen her as a Chiba lass. I remember seeing her for the first time on TV doing her version of YMO's classic "Kimi ni Mune Kyun"(君に、胸キュン)which got my curiosity. Then one time I was in the Tsudanuma district of Narashino City, Chiba Prefecture, not too far away from Chiba City since I usually taught my English circle there on Tuesday mornings. I had a few hours of time to kill before my next lesson in Tokyo so I had lunch in one of the commercial complexes in the area which included a CD shop. It just so happened that "Light" was on sale there and so the CD was playing on the speakers. As I said, I did love that 80s-looking cover and the music was quite nice so I picked it up right then and there. "Light" has been one of the touchstones that has helped me remember that shop and Tsudanuma in general.


This article would be the 6th Asako Toki entry on the blog, so 5 of them are from this album: "Komugi Iro no Mermaid"(小麦色のマーメイド), "Gift", "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic" (い・け・な・いルージュマジック), a cover of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature", and this one, "Summer Nude". A nice glass of smooth sherry of a song, it's got that lovely laidback and tropical feeling to go with those wonderful Toki vocals. I'd say enjoy that glass while swinging in the hammock. It might be cold out there wherever you are; put this on the player...you'll warm up. All kidding aside, the first time Toki sang this one was on her 2008 album "Summerin'".


What I didn't know was that "Summer Nude" was a Toki cover of a song that had been originally performed by a rock and soul group Magokoro Brothers(真心ブラザーズ). I did hear of the name but never experienced their music before. And what a pity that is. Because I was really impressed by the original version of "Summer Nude".

Released in April 1995 as their 12th single, "Summer Nude" is a funky and jazzy delight by Magokoro Brothers that reminded me of another group which was quite popular around that time, Original Love. Love the horns! It may have only gone up to No. 81 on the charts but let's say that this wonderful song can be our own little secret. Once again, that analogy of some wonderful stuff in the underwater 90% of that J-Pop iceberg is coming into play.

"Summer Nude" was created by Magokoro Brothers, Hidetoshi Sakurai(桜井秀俊)and Yoichi "YO-KING" Kuramochi(倉持陽一). The two first met in the late 1980s while students at Waseda University with Sakurai in the Faculty of Law and Kuramochi in the Faculty of Education. Their first single, "Umi" (うみ...Sea) was released in September 1989. "Summer Nude" was first included in an album through their 2nd BEST compilation, "B.A.D.(Bigger and Deffer) 〜MB's Single Collection" in June 1997. That album peaked at No. 10.


Bird released her rapid-fire version of "Summer Nude" as her 23rd and final single to date in July 2008. I'll have to be honest, though, and say that this was not quite up to the level of the ones by Toki and Magokoro Brothers and not even up to Bird's early wonderful material.

Shigeo Kusunoki -- Midori no Chiheisen (緑の地平線)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mommysaurus75/5504488400?ytcheck=1
by Angel Geisler

Happy St. Patrick's Day
to all of you folks since as the saying goes, on March 17th, everyone is Irish! And because I'm not a big drinker and I only observe the goings-on of St. Patrick's Day from the comfort of a TV screen, I thought maybe I could pay some tribute to the holiday via the blog. So I searched for a kayo kyoku with the word midori or green in the title.


It didn't take too much effort at all. I punched in the relevant kanji into the Yahoo Japan search engine, and the first few replies all pointed to this song "Midori no Chiheisen" (Green Horizon) which was originally sung by the late singer Shigeo Kusunoki(楠木繁夫).

Released in October 1935, it's a pretty lively number created by Sonosuke Sato(佐藤惣之助)and Masao Koga(古賀政男)about what I think is the relating of a tearful parting. I envision the man having to leave either a lover or a family via ship heading for places unknown. Considering how jaunty Koga's melody is compared to the sad lyrics by Sato, I can place it as one of those "smiling through the tears" kayo.

Becoming Kusunoki's most successful single, "Midori no Chiheisen" was used as the theme song for a movie of the same name which was also released in October 1935. However, due to wartime damage, the movie itself went permanently missing with only the song as the one surviving memento (aside from some stills) although the story was also adapted into a TV drama in 1962.


The song has continued to survive through covers by some of the most famous enka singers such as Hibari Misora(美空ひばり).


Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ) performed her version in front of a grand orchestra.


And I would also like to include Eisaku Ohkawa(大川栄策).

As for Kusunoki, he was born Susumu Kuroda(黒田進)in 1904 in Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island. In junior high school, he wanted to become a musician so against his father's opposition, he moved up to Tokyo and entered what is now Tokyo University of the Arts in 1924 and started singing professionally a few years later.

Now this is where things get interesting in that Kuroda would end up using 55 stage names for himself. Apparently, according to the J-Wiki article, it wasn't all that unusual for celebrities to use a variety of stage names but I think Kuroda most likely took the proverbial cake. For those who want to see this amazing list of aliases and perhaps get some practice in reading Japanese names, you can check out the article and look at the right side under the man's photo beside the kanji 「別名」. I think even Jason Bourne would have to bow down in awe.

Under his name of Kusunoki, the singer released about 250 records but including all of his names, that number has been said to approach 800. All of the above information came from an article about the singer in an April 1997 issue of the Kobe Shinbun.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mitsuko Horie -- Fly Away ~ Yume no Hikouki (夢の飛行機)


On another one of my YouTube browsings, I encountered another Yung Bae video which brings together all that Vaporwave or Future Funk to a really sparkly song that goes well with all of those images of planes. Well, I mean that lyric "Fly away" helps out, too. Plus, with that cheerful synthesizer that sounds like a horn section arranged by 60s music whiz DeVol, it really kinda makes me want to take off to Japan again...and I've not liked air travel in a long time. In a way, I guess it really gets me into that aesthetics mood....or perhaps I should say A E S T H E T I C S!


The song hooked me but I had to dig deep to find out what the original title was and who the original singer was. There was no mention of either for the top video so I had to go with what lyrics I could hear and understand. Well, a few tries through the Yahoo Japan search engine finally got me the answer I needed. And I was somewhat gobsmacked.

It wasn't any sort of City Pop or any late 1980s champagne synth-imbued urban contemporary tune but merely an opening theme to a 1988 anime. The anime in question was titled in Japanese as "Don Don Domeru to Ron" (どんどんドメルとロン) based on the original French-Belgian comic series "Cubitus" with the anime being broadcast to the United States under the title "Wowser".

And before I forget, the title of the flashy opening theme is "Fly Away ~ Yume no Hikouki" (Plane of Your Dreams) by veteran singer Mitsuko Horie(堀江美都子). I've heard her name bandied about in the anime and tokusatsu fields for years but I had no idea that she has been around for such a long time. Born in 1957, she started out as a singer in 1969 and then took on a second gig as a seiyuu which has been going on since 1978.


My impression is that "Fly Away" is to "Don Don Domeru to Ron" as that iconic theme by Hoyt Curtin is to "The Jetsons". Mind you, I think "The Jetsons" has the longer legacy but my point is that "Fly Away" just adds some extra warp drive to the launch of the show every week. As I intimated at the top, I had assumed that this was some sort of paean to all things City Pop, especially with that title.

In any case, that's another brief mystery solved!

Golden Half -- Chotto Matte Kudasai (チョット・マッテ・クダサイ)/Kiiroi Sakuranbo (黄色いサクランボ)


As I've mentioned before, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" has been a joy for me since I can talk with other like-minded folks about our mutual love for the kayo, but at the same time, I've also been able to discover some of the new up-and-comers and the forgotten singers from yesteryear along with some interesting history.



I encountered another example of the latter some days ago. Cannot remember for certain but I think on one of the past "Uta Kon" (うたコン) shows, one of the guests performed "Kiiroi Sakuranbo" (Yellow Cherry), an old pop ditty that had originally been done by the trio Three Cats back in 1959 but was covered in 1970 as a debut single for the aidoru group Golden Half (ゴールデン・ハーフ).

Now I will get to that cover later on but I wanted to write a bit about the group itself since its gimmick as their name will hint at was that all of the female members were biracial...half-Japanese and half another nationality. Starting off with 5 women when "Kiiroi Sakuranbo" was released, by the time Golden Half released their 10th and final single in 1974, the group was reduced to a trio.

The lineup in the beginning was Eva Maria Vasquez, Maria Mori, Luna Takamura(高村ルナ), Yumi Kobayashi(小林ユミ)and Eri Ishiyama(石山エリー). The last two members were the ones who had left before the final breakup with Ishiyama departing soon after the release of  "Kiiroi Sakuranbo".


Their 5th single from December 1971 was "Chotto Matte Kudasai" (Never Say Goodbye), a nice little ballad that was a cover of a single by singer Sam Kapu Jr. from earlier in the year. The Golden Half cover seems to have a bit more of a Bacharach feeling to it. Loyal Garner and Jeanne Nakashima created the song with Osamu Katori(香取治)providing Japanese lyrics.


In the same year, there was yet another version released by a duo known as Geminesse (ジェミネス) who were twin Japanese-Brazilian sisters. I couldn't find much information at all on them...not even their names. Not surprisingly, their version has a bit more bossa nova.



This final video is Golden Half's version of "Kiiroi Sakuranbo".

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Yuuko Maki -- Osaka Mambo (大阪マンボ)


Wasn't expecting to put up a third article tonight but I heard a bit of this really snazzy Mood Kayo on an NHK program just now, and I simply had to mention it before I forget it. And no, it wasn't a rerun of "Uta Kon" (うたコン). It was actually the weekly edition of "Gatten" (ガッテン), that midweek educational program. Strangely enough, the theme was about how one's larynx could signal a potentially fatal aortic aneurysm, and somehow some karaoke got into the mix with this lady cheerfully singing the song of this article.


And that would be "Osaka Mambo" by Yuuko Maki(真木柚布子). I had never heard of her before so I am wondering if she is a regional enka singer. She doesn't have a J-Wiki article but she does have a nice website so I was able to glean some information. For example, "Osaka Mambo" was her 14th single from July 1998.

I do like the song since the horns go all out for the Latin jazz and the singer herself is very devoted to the delivery. Written by Hajime Tateishi(建石一)and composed by Masato Sugimoto(杉本真人), the brash and colorful "Osaka Mambo" matches the feeling of an evening out in the Kansai metropolis. Lots of light and noise out there.

From what information I could find on her website, Maki is an enka and Mood Kayo singer who originally hails from Hokkaido who made her debut in 1989 and has released 44 singles up to now. Her idol happens to be Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)and pretty much loves all sorts of food although her particular love is for the various kinds of noodles.


Get more into the mood with this karaoke video.

paris match -- Deep Inside


I don't get to see it all the time but on TV Japan on Sunday nights, there is one of those educational variety programs that NHK is renowned for showing called "Tanken Bakumon"(探検バクモン...Expedition Bakusho Mondai)featuring the veteran comedic duo Bakusho Mondai(爆笑問題)in which the fellows accompanied by tarento Sahel Rosa (サヘル・ローズ) and a production crew explore the more fascinating sights and sites of Japan that perhaps most citizens aren't aware of. When I do get to see the show, it's usually quite comfortable viewing with the occasional lunacy from the guys.


The English title for "Tanken Bakumon" happens to be "Deep Inside", and so on coming across the cool tune by Shibuya-kei band paris match, I couldn't help but be reminded of the show since it also possesses the title "Deep Inside". Released in November 2001 as paris match's 4th single, it makes for a nice accompaniment for walking through neighbourhoods such as Aoyama or Omotesando in Tokyo. It's something nice and groovy for that weekend stroll. Perhaps I should invest in that ancient Sony Walkman next time I hit the megalopolis and slip in a paris match disc.


The song was also a track on the band's 3rd album "type III" from June 2002.


And once again, I have to give my kudos to Artzie Music for providing his remix of the song for one of his video creations. Kinda feel sorry for the high school student during cherry blossom season, though. Getting a heart broken during that time must really suck.

Chinatsu Nakayama/Midori Karashima/Hiromi Iwasaki -- Anata no Kokoro ni (あなたの心に)


Less than a week before spring arrives and it was bitterly cold out there today. The wind chill felt like Minus 1 million at times but I managed to see an old friend and his family visiting out from Vancouver earlier today at the city diner Sunset Grill. Nice to see and talk with longtime buddies over a hearty lunch on a frigid day.


I think it's also nice to listen to this song from way back when to hopefully herald the coming of the warming season. It was performed last night on the weekly "Uta Kon" (うたコン) and I was charmed enough by "Anata no Kokoro ni" (To Your Heart) to seek it out online.

The original singer was Chinatsu Nakayama(中山千夏)who has been one of those celebrities who has worn a lot of hats in her professional career. Starting out as a child actor, she continued her acting career into adulthood, but was also a singer, a seiyuu, a tarento and a member of the Japanese House of Councillors. According to her J-Wiki bio though, she is currently an author.

As for her singing career, Nakayama did do some singing during her time as a child actor but she officially started her time as a singer in September 1969 when she debuted with "Anata no Kokoro ni", a folksy love ballad for which she provided the lyrics while Shunichi Tokura(都倉俊一)made the music. Tokura would later become even more famous for his compositions in the 1970s for a variety of singers such as Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)and Pink Lady, but this particular song was his own debut as a composer.

Of course, I like the nostalgic arrangement and the image of sitting calmly on a grassy hill on a sunny spring day when listening to "Anata no Kokoro ni". And if Nakayama had been as successful in her other ventures as she was singing this song, then I think she probably had a very illustrious multifaceted career. Her debut single went as high as No. 2 on Oricon and sold over 400,000 records. It became the 47th-ranked single of the year. She would release some more singles into the 1970s but it looks like "Anata no Kokoro" was by far her biggest hit.

(short version)

The song has had its share of different versions including Midori Karashima's(辛島美登里)surprisingly slightly rock-oriented one for her 2001 album of cover tunes "Eternal-One".


Then in 2003, Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)provided her own cover of "Anata no Kokoro ni" as her 58th single. An album version of the song was also available for her successful "Dear Friends" album which came out at the same time. That album peaked at No. 59.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Teresa Teng -- Come On, Sunshower (カモン・サンシャワー)


If this photo of an ancient Canadian Tire tape looks familiar to you, that is because I used the same picture for my most recent Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)article in which one of her songs was on an episode of "Sounds of Japan" that is on the tape.


Well, there was another song on the episode....in fact, it was the song that started off the episode. It was called "Come On, Sunshower", the 33rd single of the duo Cherish (チェリッシュ) that came out in March 1982. Looking at a chart of their singles and their success at J-Wiki, it was obvious that their heyday was back in the early 1970s. The song didn't even chart on Oricon.

Still, I liked the really upbeat nature of the tune that was created by lyricist Kohei Oikawa(及川恒平)and composer Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー). And I would have liked to have introduced the actual song to you via YouTube as well. The only thing is that no such video exists there or on any of the other sites. However, what has still made this article possible is the fact that a cover was performed by Teresa Teng (テレサ・テン) a couple of years later. If I read the description correctly, it is a Mandarin cover by the late singer but it is still unmistakably "Come On, Sunshower" since the arrangement hasn't changed all that much including a happy electric guitar.

There are quite a few Cherish tunes up on YouTube. I hope that this particular one does get its due someday.

Off-Course -- Omoi no Mama ni (思いのままに)


Well, that dreaded winter storm that was supposed to have walloped us here in Toronto didn't really do all that much harm. Actually, it hit Niagara Falls and places down in the States a lot harder. Still, in a bit of tongue-in-cheek preparation, yesterday I put in a CD of some Off-Course (オフコース) favourites into the player. The above "Spring Time Best From Off Course" is one of those generic compilations and not by the original recording company itself. I probably found it the music section of a Daiei or other local department store a very long time ago.


A number of the tracks have already been covered in the annals of this blog but I did manage to find another treat with Track 2 "Omoi no Mama ni" (As Hopes). The Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)-penned ballad was originally a track on Off-Course's 7th album "Three and Two" which had been released back in October 1979.

Considering that release date, "Omoi no Mama ni" has more of that contemporary pop sound which would define the band for the remainder of its time going into the 1980s rather than their folk melodies in the 1970s. Oda's lyrics have that Off-Course familiar ring of regret and hope after a romantic breakup in which the guy wishes his former girlfriend well in her future endeavors. Hearing the song in concert as in the above video, this must have been quite the fan favourite performed live.


"Three and Two" did very well on the charts, ranking in at No. 2 at its peak on Oricon and quickly becoming the 48th-ranked album for 1979 even though it had been released late in October of that year. In 1980, it did even better by finishing that year at No. 37.

I was wondering where the inspiration for that album title had come from. According to J-Wiki, the title was apparently referring to the fact that the three fellows consisting of bassist Hitoshi Shimizu(清水仁), drummer Jiro Ohma(大間ジロー), and multi-instrumentalist Kazuhiko Matsuo(松尾一彦)had become official members of Off-Course to go with the original members of Oda and Yasuhiro Suzuki(鈴木康博)on the cusp of this album getting out.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Linda Yamamoto/Haruo Chikada/Etsuko Yakushimaru -- Kirikiri Mai (きりきり舞い)


In all honesty, I thought that I had exhausted all of my "Kayo Kyoku Plus" talk on force-of-nature Linda Yamamoto(山本リンダ). The last time I wrote about her was over 4 years ago with "Nerai Uchi"(狙いうち). Of course, when it came to Yamamoto, it had usually been about the hot and sexy. Well, strangely enough, I recently encountered one of her songs that was more on the cool and sexy side.


Now, compared to some of her past hits with all that hip-swinging choreography, Yamamoto's 11th single from December 1973, "Kirikiri Mai" (Going Round and Round) was a relatively modest success, despite the title, peaking at No. 28. And it was also another collaborative creation by Yu Aku and Shunichi Tokura(阿久悠・都倉俊一), the brains and hands behind the aforementioned "Nerai Uchi".

I think part of the reason that "Kirikiri Mai" wasn't a Top 10 barnburner was that Yamamoto turned down the heat somewhat. As you can see from the video above, she didn't really whirl around the stage in that long hair and bell-bottom pants. It was a surprisingly subdued performance. However for myself, "Kirikiri Mai" could be one of those underrated gems or at the very least, an interesting tune for Yamamoto in that she sings it with a certain measure of sultriness that has me thinking Kahimi Karie (カヒミ・カリィ) a couple of decades later with that French kitten persona.

Aku's lyrics have Yamamoto kinda/sorta apologizing for being such a force of nature but also stating that is simply who she is and perhaps what is attracting the guy/victim to her. The slightly whispery and staccato delivery also has me imagining Brigitte Bardot for some reason, and the music by Tokura, especially with that wind instrument, hints at her unrepentantly flirtatious nature. Yeah, maybe "Kirikiri Mai" is comparatively comatose compared to her earlier material (and I have yet to see it performed on any of the NHK music shows that I have seen over the past few years), but I think it still has sex appeal of another kind.


Perhaps the song wasn't a huge hit in the Yamamoto discography, but it has gotten its due through cover versions. In fact, a few years down the line, it was released by composer-musician Haruo Chikada(近田春夫)and his band, Haruofon (ハルヲフォン), as a zippy New Wave number which ended up as his 5th single from July 1978. I only had to listen to the song to get that New Wave vibe, and sure enough, when I checked the J-Wiki article for his band, they were indeed labeled as such a group.


I was mentioning Shibuya-kei artist Kahimi Karie a few paragraphs up. Well, I don't know whether she actually did cover "Kirikiri Mai" but I found a singer who provided a good emulation. Whispery Etsuko Yakushimaru (やくしまる えつこ) gave a soothing cover with a soupcon of bossa nova which was recorded in a special box set paying tribute to the songs of Aku, "Shin Ningen Man'yoka ~ Aku Yu Sakushishuu"(新・人間万葉歌〜阿久悠作詞集...New Human Man'yoka ~ The Collection of Yu Aku's Works) from 2010.


Strangely enough, listening to all of the versions of the song reminded me of the 1970s comedy "What's Up, Doc?" with Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand as whirlwind victim and whirlwind respectively. I was very young at the time I saw this on ABC one night but I remember feeling distinctly sorry for O'Neal's character (at least, initially) due to the antics of Streisand's overly free spirit.

MAX -- TORA TORA TORA


Happy Monday! But perhaps not Happy Tuesday! Winter has decided to throw perhaps one more blast of snowstorm on us about a week before spring officially arrives. The possibility that Toronto will be getting 15-20 cm in the next 24 hours looms large. Luckily, though, I will probably be at home typing away instead of battling commuting hell.


There had been a chafing question niggling at the back of my mind for years and years and it had to do with the 90s song-and-dance group MAX. Back in February 1996, they released their 3rd single, "TORA, TORA, TORA", and I'd thought that was a really odd choice for a title since the first thing that had come to mind was the Hollywood movie of the same name about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I mean, it certainly didn't sound like it was a celebration of World War II but neither did I think it was some sort of ironic choice either.


"TORA, TORA, TORA" was a song that I had heard in excerpts all the time on the music shows but now that I've heard it in its entirety, I've gotten all nostalgic at the old-style dance music stylings with the vocal whoops and the "Dance Dance Revolution"-like arrangement. Oh, man, was that game a thing back in the day! My old Canadian buddy living in Mie Prefecture was always practicing at the game centres. Of course, I was more the looker than the participant in such endeavors.


I think "TORA, TORA, TORA" has become one of MAX's trademark tunes although it didn't quite reach the heights of "Ride On Time" that came out a couple of years later. It peaked at No. 19.

As for the story behind the title, well, MAX's single was actually a cover of the original by the Italian Eurobeat singer, Domino. The original came out back in 1994 with credits to the Tiger Boys and Andrea Leonardi while Kazumi Suzuki(鈴木計見)provided the Japanese lyrics. So I'm left with the question about how the Tiger Boys and Leonardi came up with the title.


That Wikipedia article on Domino also mentioned that because of her Eurobeat version of the "Mickey Mouse March" on an episode of the late "SMAP X SMAP" as performed by Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉)(that would be from about 3:05 of the video), it helped bring back the Para Para dance craze for a third time...had no idea about the first two times. I knew about Para Para from a disco called Twin Star near the station by one of my old schools, Iidabashi Station. Actually attended a wedding reception there once. No Para Para from me, though...that would have been a crime against humanity.