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, October 22, 2016

Yasuhiro Abe -- Tight Up

If you see this photo above, then it's time for a City Pop article.

And what better person in this genre on a Saturday than Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)? I'm not quite sure about the grammatical accuracy of the title of "Tight Up" but I guess since Archie Bell and the Drells took "Tighten Up" years back, singer and composer Abe along with lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)had to come up with a compromise.

Furthermore, any silly niggling by an old English teacher like me quickly flew away on hearing this tight piece of City Pop. With that rousing piano intro launching into that combination of thrilling strings, dynamic horns and boppy bass (and don't forget the guitar-and-sax solo), I can only imagine bright lights and big city. And as one YouTube commenter put it, this should have been assigned as the theme song for an action-adventure anime. "City Hunter" would have been one fine candidate.

"Tight Up" was Abe's 4th single from February 1984 (and the above is the single version), and it is a track on his 2nd album, "Moderato" which was released a month later.

I have to leave off by saying that those horns had me thinking of Kahoru Kohiruimaki's(小比類巻かほる)later R&B material.

Kazuko Kawashima -- Mugen ni Hirogaru Dai Uchuu (無限に広がる大宇宙)

Yup, after all these years, I still have that poster of "Be Forever, Yamato" on my wall. When Toronto's legendary comic book shop, The Silver Snail, could still afford to have Japanese products at its old Queen West location back in the 1980s, I bought a fair amount of paraphernalia regarding "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト...Space Cruiser Yamato)mostly in the form of books. However, I did find this poster as well and after some hemming and hawing, I finally pulled the financial trigger.

One of the first articles I ever wrote on this blog happened to be the opening theme for "Uchuu Senkan Yamato" by Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰), the triumphant march that I remember alongside John Williams' "Star Wars" and Alexander Courage's original theme for "Star Trek" as one of the most famous sci-fi overtures. Even today, when I listened to "Uchuu Senkan Yamato", the lumps were still forming in my throat (or as they are now labeled on Twitter, the feels). And then there is the Mood Kayo-esque ballad of "Makka no Scarf"(真っ赤のスカーフ)that can also press a few emotional buttons. Both of them were sung by the anison singer emeritus Isao Sasaki(ささきいさお).

However, not all of the memorable music was performed by Sasaki. There is still one ballad that I had yet to cover until now which remains as one of the musical touchstones for "Yamato". And yet, I didn't know the title of this piece until today. That would be "Mugen ni Hirogaru Dai Uchuu" (The Infinite Universe) which I assume was also composed by Miyagawa although no mention of the song or even the title was made on the song portion of the J-Wiki article for the series, although I think the alternate title was "The Scat" (ugh...nope that doesn't work).

All of the Yamato fans will know "Mugen ni Hirogaru Dai Uchuu" from Kazuko Kawashima's(川島和子)haunting voice and Miyagawa's ethereal music. It's the counterpoint to the Yamato march. Whereas the march signifying the ship boldly going where no one has gone before, "Mugen ni Hirogaru Dai Uchuu" is the song always present in the universe...never needing to move, it's always there.

If memory serves me correctly, this secondary theme was used at the beginning of almost each episode of the first season when the Yamato was heading to Iscandar while the narrator caught everyone up on the story. And it was also used in the more poignant scenes when someone or something was about to end up in the eternal ether. It probably never failed to elicit throat lumps at the very least. And for a lot of us in my generation originally watching the dubbed version of the show in the form of "Star Blazers", this was probably the first TV cartoon to have us tearing up a bit (although most of us will not admit it).

A new version was made for the rebooted 2199 series.

Plus of course, I gotta finish up with the Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)version.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Top 10 Albums for 2009

1. Arashi                                         All The Best! 1999-2009
2. Mr. Children                               Supermarket Fantasy
3. GReeeeN                                    Shio, Kosho
4. EXILE                                        Ai Subeki Mirai e
5. EXILE                                        EXILE BALLAD BEST
6. Ayaka                                         Ayaka's History 2006-2009
7. Dreams Come True                    Do You Dreams Come True?
8. Remioromen                              Remio Best
9. Superfly                                     Box Emotions
10. Kobukuro                                CALLING

Top 10 Singles for 2009

1. Arashi                                          Believe/Kumori Nochi, Kaisei
2. Arashi                                          Ashita no Kioku/Crazy Moon
3. Arashi                                          My Girl
4. Junko Akimoto                            Ai no Mama de...
5. Arashi                                          Everything
6. B'z                                               Ichibu to Zenbu/DIVE
7. KAT-TUN                                   Rescue
8. Yusuke                                        Himawari
9. KAT-TUN                                   ONE DROP
10. Kan Johnny Eight                     Kyuu☆Jou☆Show!!

Geez, I think I'm detecting a pattern here or a storm brewing at the top. Yup, Arashi got four out of the top 5 best hits of 2009 while KAT-TUN grabbed a couple of spots themselves. Still, it was great to see Junko Akimoto get the No. 4 spot with an old kayo.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hibari Misora -- Suteki na Rendezvous (素適なランデブー)

Here I was, having just seen the latest "Uta Kon"(うたコン)a couple of nights ago and enjoying the performance of "O-Matsuri Mambo"(お祭りマンボ)by the Eternal Queen of Kayo Kyoku, Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), that I was going to write about it. However, I realized that I had already written about it over 3 years ago. Such is my crumbly memory and the fact that "Kayo Kyoku Plus" has lasted as long as it already has.

Well, I wasn't going to be discouraged from putting up a Misora song so easily. It took a little time but I did manage to find one of her happy-go-lucky kayo from all the way back in 1955. "Suteki na Rendezvous" (A Wonderful Rendezvous) is not only a song whose cheerful music and lyrics rang off some memory engrams in my head but it was a tune used in the first of a series of movies starring the Sannin Musume(三人娘...The Three Girls), the trio consisting of Japanese cinematic starlets, Misora, Izumi Yukimura(雪村いづみ)and Chiemi Eri(江利チエミ)when they would have been graduating from high school. The movie was titled "Janken Musume"(ジャンケン娘)which literally translated as "Rock, Paper and Scissors Girls" but is known less awkwardly in English as "So Young, So Bright".

Written and composed by Rokuro Hara(原六郎), who had also created the aforementioned "O-Matsuri Mambo", "Suteki na Rendezvous" is notable for that catchy melody which, if it had been made in Hollywood, would have been great for any sort of 1950s musical based in Gay Paree starring an older Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly or Danny Kaye (as for the starring women, I would have had either Nanette Fabray or Debbie Reynolds sing it). Plus it has those lines "ren-ren-ren-ren-rendezvous, I-I-I-I-I love you" which have been the most memorable part of the song for me.

Although the song is performed just by Misora, I've still included Yukimura and Eri in the Labels merely for sentiment. And the ladies do perform a small part of it together up above many years later. It's a poignant scene since of the three, only Yukimura is still alive.

Since I couldn't find the full original version online featuring the late Misora, I've also put up a cover performance by the trio of Konomi Mori(杜このみ), Ryuko Mizuta(水田竜子)and Miki Matsukawa(松川未樹).

Reimy -- No Side (ノーサイド)

As I've mentioned in previous Reimy(麗美)articles, before I first got to know the Okinawan singer as the writer of some of that mellow pop from the late 80s and early 90s, she did start out performing cover versions of Yumi Matsutoya's(松任谷由実)hits.

Right from her debut album of "Reimy" released in January 1984 was her version of Yuming's(ユーミン)"No Side". However, I have to correct myself since in actual fact, "No Side" was an original song given to Reimy from the Queen of New Music with the latter performing it at the end of the year as a cover and as the title track for her 16th album.

From the piece I wrote about Yuming's "No Side", I had written that according to the relevant J-Wiki article, the song itself may have been based on a high school rugby match that had taken place in January 1984. Now, considering that "Reimy" was released with her "No Side" in that same month, I'm now wondering if that story is either apocryphal or Yuming wrote it up really quickly. Mind you, the album came out on January 21st and considering her ability to whip up those melodic gems, it is possible that she still managed to see that match, get inspired by it, create a song about it and have it recorded by Reimy.

There isn't that much of a difference in terms of the arrangement for "No Side" for either Reimy or Yuming. The song still has that bittersweet tone about the aftermath of a lost game. But since I've been so accustomed to Yuming's cover of it, I'll probably still prefer her version over Reimy's. Generally, I think Reimy became much more interesting when she started striking out on her own with her own songwriting creations.

I actually had been considering about writing on Reimy's "No Side" before this news came out, so it was a coincidence that I've written this on a day on finding out that one of the pioneers of Japanese rugby, Seiji Hirao(平尾誠二), suddenly passed away at the untimely age of 53.

Furthermore, continuing on the theme of sad sports losses, I'm writing this on the day after the Toronto Blue Jays were eliminated from further post-season play by the Cleveland Indians. I hadn't thought that the Jays would make it to the World Series in any case since I think they lack consistency, but it's still sad to see the boys in blue get tossed out the way they did.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kyoko Koizumi -- Minogashitekure yo! (見逃してくれよ!)

When it comes to the 1980s aidoru spectrum, Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)was the cute burikko while Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)played the misunderstood rebel. However, Kyoko "Kyon-Kyon" Koizumi(小泉今日子)was somewhere in the middle...a basically decent kid with a cheeky streak and a gorgeous smile. She was probably the one in school that the shy girls wished they were although hanging out with her pretty much guaranteed a mandatory and not-so-happy visit to the teachers' room.

The above was a commercial that I saw on heavy rotation during my time in Gunma featuring an adult Kyon-Kyon still bringing that cheeky attitude into the working world as she tried to sell Knorr Soup while her superiors brooded away.

Single No. 29 for Koizumi was "Minogashitekure yo!" (Can't You Let It Go?) from March 1990 which sounds like Classic Kyon-Kyon. She plays the angelic devil or a devilish angel as the young cog who happily breaks a few rules such as eating a bento in the conference room (oh, the horror!), hogging the mike for 5 consecutive songs at karaoke, and eating desserts while on a diet. And most likely, she will be able to get away with all of that stuff (as mildly naughty as they are) with a wink and a smile and an ii jan(いいじゃん, c'mon it's OK).

"Minogashitekure yo!" hit No. 1 on Oricon and was the 43rd-ranked single of 1990. Hidehiko Kato(加藤英彦)of The Flying Kids provided the rock beat to the song while some unit called the Kappatsu Iinkai(活発委員会...The Active Committee)came up with the lyrics. Perhaps instant soup saw some success as well.