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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dorian -- summer rich feat. hitomitoi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

TUBE -- Natsu da ne (夏だね)

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fence of Defense -- SARA

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

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

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

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

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

Naoko Kawai -- Aoi Sanmyaku (青い山脈)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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