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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stardust Revue -- Ginza Neon Paradise (銀座ネオン・パラダイス)

I was sampling some of Stardust Revue's(スターダストレビュー)earlier singles and got the impression that the band started life as a somewhat quasi-retro unit bringing some good-time honky-tonk jazz and swing to kayo kyoku.

Case in point: their 2nd single from November 1981, "Ginza Neon Paradise". I couldn't track down the original recorded version but it sounds like the song was a crowdpleaser at their concerts. Written by vocalist Kaname Nemoto(根本要)and also composed by him along with Akira Tejima and Noriko Kinai(手島昭・きないのりこ), I could even hear that feeling of Dixieland; the only instrument missing perhaps is a banjo. The more I hear it, the more I think it's pretty fun to take part in the chorus.

From what I've heard from folks and other sources, Ginza was once a very well-lit place during the boom years of the Japanese economy. However, even during my time there which was supposedly well after the era of the Bubble, things still looked pretty bright in one of Tokyo's tony neighbourhoods. I still couldn't really place an early 20th-century jazz song there, though. It still sounds like a place for Mood Kayo.

m-flo loves BoA -- the Love Bug

Spoke about "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" in my last article and one of the big guest stars in there was Kurt Russell as Ego, The Living Planet.

However, I first knew about Russell when he was acting in all those crazy Disney comedy movies of the 1970s...titles like "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" and "The Strongest Man in the World".

Speaking of Walt Disney, another oft-seen movie series from the Mouse House on Sunday nights on TV was the "Love Bug" series starring Dean Jones with a seemingly sentient Volkswagen Beetle called Herbie. I enjoyed plenty of hilarity as a little kid watching all these movies on NBC.

So you can imagine several decades later my surprise when I heard that there was a song with that title "the Love Bug" by m-flo and BoA. Not sure whether VERBAL and company had been giving a shout out to the Disney character but then again, the guys did pay some tribute to another American TV chestnut "Star Trek".

As part of the "m-flo loves..." series, this was released in March 2004 although no VW Beetles were involved. I've featured some of the other songs from the series such as "Summer Time Love" with Emi Hinouchi and Ryohei, and they all follow the similar formula of a pretty upbeat arrangement with the guest singers putting in their part while VERBAL floats in and out like a takekoputa (inside joke) plus provides some mid-song rap. "the Love Bug" is apparently the second in the series and I remember it best for BoA giving her "hip hop" patter.

The song was m-flo's 16th single which went Gold as it peaked at No. 8 on Oricon. It also appeared on the group's 3rd album "ASTROMANTIC" from May 2004. That album hit No. 2 and ended up as the 42nd-ranked release of the year, going Double Platinum.

Kumi Miyasato -- Kaze no Lullaby (風のララバイ)

Well, happy Victoria Day to my fellow Canadians. I can hear some of the fireworks outside. Got together with a couple of my movie buddies in Toronto to catch one of the more anticipated blockbusters for 2017, "Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2". And it didn't disappoint. My anime buddy last week told me that he wasn't all that thrilled with it but I still had a good time, and strangely enough, there were even some poignant scenes at the end...I can guarantee if this had been released closer to Father's Day, there would have been some major waterworks from the guys. Finally, I did love the ending credits with most of the cast boogeying down (even Karen Gillan) along with David Hasselhoff chiming in.

Yesterday when I was doing the routine with my anime buddy, he put on a song that he hadn't done before during the music section of our session. It happened to be "Kaze no Lullaby" (Lullaby of the Wind), a ballad that had been included in the anime "Megazone 23" from 1985.

I barely remember that particular show although it was shown at U of T by somebody back in the day. Mind you, I do remember one scene from the 2nd part of "Megazone 23" in which a jet pilot gets ripped apart by a bunch of tentacles....I couldn't remember anything else including the sex scenes, and yet I remember that evisceration....kinda wish I could un-remember it.

"Kaze no Lullaby" was recorded by Kumi Miyasato(宮里久美)who actually had a starring role in the anime and my buddy told me that she had been groomed to be another Mari Iijima(飯島真理)who was immortalized because of her iconic character Lynn Minmay from "Macross". Miyasato didn't quite make that level of fame apparently (she left showbiz in 1989) but I did enjoy "Kaze no Lullaby" which has that gentle and classy European-sounding melody reminiscent of Gazebo's "I Love Chopin" which was famously covered by actress-singer Asami Kobayashi(小林麻美)as "Ame Oto wa Chopin no Shirabe"(雨音はショパンの調べ). I've heard other songs by young female Japanese singers with a similar arrangement in the 1980s which makes me wonder whether the Gazebo hit had become quite the influence.

The song was written by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composed by Hiroaki Serizawa(芹澤廣明), and it was a track on Miyasato's debut album "Hitomi de Whispering"(瞳でウィスパリング...Whispering With My Eyes)from October 1985.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kengo Kurozumi -- You & Me

Got Kengo Kurozumi's(黒住憲五)2nd article here as one of those mysterious singers who I could only find out about through "Japanese City Pop".

I swear that listening to "You and Me" which is a track on his 5th album "Pillow Talk" from 1989, the groovy orange mimosa-friendly tune was something out of the mid-1980s or even earlier. The arrangement might be more updated but I could feel the Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)in there. The music was by Kurozumi with lyrics by Dereck Jackson.

With all those horns and guitar in there, I think this would have been something that Sing Like Talking could have done this as well. And what a group of session musicians in there: Jeff Porcaro and Michael Landau among others. Another one of those feel-good summer songs.

Finger Five/Momoe Yamaguchi/Caocao/misono -- Kojin Jugyō(個人授業)

Lovely cool day....airing out my room by having the windows open. I'm sure a lot of other folks are out there on the beginning of this long Victoria Day weekend. May be catching "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" on Monday with a couple of friends. The reviews have been good although it doesn't seem to be as well-regarded as the first one but not too surprised on that assessment. Nope, the big shocker is hearing all of the pre-release raves for "Wonder Woman". The DC Expanded Universe has been praying that one of its movies would finally get a break, and it looks like it has arrived.

There's been a fellow who's been putting up hour-long videos with a whole ton of notable kayo kyoku excerpts from certain years squeezed in. I decided to listen to one of them...1974, to be exact. The first few songs are tunes that I've already written about so I was hoping that there would be one that I had yet to hear. At about 1:40, I found one.

But it was by a group that I have written about before. Finger Five(フィンガー5)had always struck me as being the Japanese analogy of The Jackson Five, and for some reason this new song that hit upon my ears and brain thrust that point home especially. "Kojin Jugyō" (Private Lessons), mind you, is more cute pop than R&B but otherwise the sentiment was there.

Released in August 1973 as Finger Five's 2nd single  (there were 3 singles in 1970 under their old name of Baby Brothers), "Kojin Jugyō" was created by the same duo behind all those later Pink Lady hits, Yu Aku and Shunichi Tokura(阿久悠・都倉俊一). The story behind the song is very simple: a kid's puppy love for his tutor. The song hit No. 1 on Oricon and became a long-lasting single, becoming the 18th-ranked song for the year and hanging on at No. 27 in the annual rankings for 1974.

Quite the interesting development here. Near the end of 1973, a very young Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)saw her 2nd album, "Aoi Kajitsu/Kinjirareta Asobi"(青い果実/禁じられた遊び)released with one of the tracks being a cover of "Kojin Jugyō". Considering all of the deep-voiced hits that she provided in the latter half of the decade, it was fascinating to hear her sound just like Finger Five lead vocalist Kazuo Tamamoto(玉元一夫). The album itself managed to reach as high as No. 26.

Let's jump ahead by a few decades into the 21st century. Once again, I was given a bit of a jolt in finding out that comely Kaori Mochida(持田香織)of 90s pop/rock unit Every Little Thing and Takao Tajima(田島貴男)of Original Love got together in 2009 to make the duo Caocao to do their own cover of "Kojin Jugyō". The music video has them going all 70s groovy in front of a rapturous high school crowd. One of my students who was a huge fan of all things hippie and Haight-Ashbury could appreciate this. The cover also got some appreciation from other folks as well since it ranked in at No. 22 on the singles charts.

I knew that misono that, along with the fact that she is Kumi Koda's(倖田來未)younger sister, she also sang herself. However, I mostly saw her as a tarento popping up on TV game shows and other variety programs. In 2006, though, she sang her own version of "Kojin Jugyō" as her 2nd single. It's got an even more rock treatment and the video is pretty clever as she poses as a Cinderella in a high school. It ranked in at No. 15.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Yui Murase -- Shiosai (潮騒)

One of the drawbacks about doing the blog is that for the more unsung singers, it's difficult to find videos of their songs to showcase, and eventually, those videos that are found will be taken down due to the inevitable copyright issues. Not that I blame the singers or the recording studios; they have to get their due. However, it just means that a song that I would have continued to enjoy introducing to the masses has now disappeared, possibly forever.

I start off this way because one prime example is here. Yui Murase(村瀬由衣)is not a well-known singer, especially in the world of J-Pop fans outside of Japan. However, I found out about her through one of the issues of "Eye-Ai" over 20 years ago and found the cover of her debut album "Suiyoubi no Asa, Mado wo Akeru"(水曜日の朝、窓を開ける...Open Your Windows on Wednesday Morning)so enticing that I ended up getting that album through the magazine's mail order shopping.

I did write my introductory article about Murase last year but unfortunately the videos have been taken down. However, I have decided to refrain from putting it into mothballs since there is that background about her in that article and I didn't want to repeat myself here about her bio. Scrolled through any videos of her on YouTube but it looks like a good chunk of them have been deleted. C'est dommage!

Keeping my chin up, I will re-introduce this singer of mellow and sometimes sophisticated pop through this lovely little bit of bossa nova titled "Shiosai" (Sound of Waves) that she sang on her 4th album "Yui Murase" from June 1994. Always a sucker for the Brazilian genre, I think Friday night makes for a nice time to bring this in. At my age, I haven't made it a practice to go out with friends on Friday nights for quite a few years now, but I would like to be in an appropriate supper club with this being performed on stage by the singer.

Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美)took care of the lyrics while Hidetoshi Yamada(山田秀俊)came up with the lovely music. Yesterday, I bought a couple of CDs of not-everyday artists from CD Japan; perhaps it's time to give Murase some more attention again.

frasco -- Kaze ni Notte ~breeze~ (風に乗って)

A bit more seasonal than some of the torrid weather we had gotten over the last couple of days but still sunny and pleasant out there today. Besides, I like the cooler air.

Therefore to commemorate this weather, I've decided to devote this article to this lovely song by not-so-well-known pop band frasco. I never heard of these guys until I bought my very first CD from the "Light Mellow" series a few years ago, "Breeze". But I knew I was on the right step when I heard a lot of wonderful tracks on this disc including frasco's "Kaze ni Notte" (Catch The Wind).

frasco consisted of the late guitarist Hiroshi Narumi(鳴海寛), session drummer Makio Tada(多田牧男)and singer-songwriter Sakiko Masano(政野早希子)on vocals. Narumi's name has been bandied about before on this blog due to his contribution to the City Pop duo Tohoku Shinkansen(東北新幹線)with songwriter Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子)back in the 1980s. Well, it looks like he brought together another unit in the following decade with frasco in 1994.

This particularly breezy tune "Kaze ni Notte" was included in their 1996 2nd album "film". The band has been solidly classified as a pop group but listening to this summery outing, I couldn't help but feel that there was also some Shibuya-kei in there somewhere so I've also included that genre in the Labels. Either way, it's a good song to listen to. Not too frenetic, not too laid back, it's the equivalent of a walk on the sandy beach. Narumi composed the melody while Masano took care of the lyrics with Narumi and Tada arranging the whole thing.

Considering the obscurity of frasco, all of my information on the group was from the liner notes of that "Breeze" disc for "Light Mellow".

Now it's possible that depending on where you live, you may not be able to see the video at the very top, but perhaps you can access this compilation at around 4:10 when "Kaze ni Notte" begins.