I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chiharu Matsuyama -- Koi (恋)

Other than his distinctive voice, I know Chiharu Matsuyama (松山千春) as the poor guy who lost most of his hair... but I must say he's rocking the bald look with that untidy salt and pepper scruff on his chin - kinda makes him look a little like a walrus though, especially when it grows out.

But with that aside Matsuyama's 8th single from 1980 'Koi', which just means love, pretty much had me with the soft chords of the acoustic guitar and sharp yet gentle whine of the harmonica at the start, giving a sort of nostalgic feel to the song. Definitely a far cry from the rock and roll of 'Nagai yoru' (長い夜) that would come out a year later.

Now that I think of it, this song just gives me the image of the folk singer-songwriter in his early days sitting on a bench in a near empty train station platform at sunset, singing this ballad in a heartfelt way while strumming away at his guitar, probably yearning for that special one to arrive... if she is even coming in the first place! Ah hah hah, now that gives it some extra depth!

Moving on, being one of Matsuyama's self-written and composed hits, 'Koi' did well on the Oricon charts peaking at 6th on the weeklies and managed to stay on people's radars long enough throughout the year (released on 21st January) for it to rank 34th in 1980.

Here's a live performance of Matsuyama from back in the day singing an acoustic version of the song.

And another thing I found was a duet version of 'Koi', between Kiyoshi Maekawa and Sayuri Ishikawa (前川清 . 石川さゆり). From the looks of it (and from Maekawa's non-existent glaring perm), it was performed either during the very late 80's or the early 90's, and yes I coincidentally discovered this after approving the pair's recent duet 'Aiyo shizuka ni nemure'. It's interesting really to have a song originally sung by one to be split into the verbal give and take between man and woman, but it worked.

Still had his full head of hair...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Akemi Ishii -- Lambada (ランバダ)

Years before the Macarena enraptured the planet for a short while, I was witness to another dance phenomenon that had swept Earth (including Japan) for a good year...or at least, the song that the folks danced to did.

I am talking about the the time, I had no idea where it descended from exactly, only that it took hold within Japanese pop culture via variety shows and music programs. There was no way to escape it from 1989 to 1990. As much as the songs of Wink and Princess Princess filled the air, the Lambada also managed to carve its aural niche.

Akemi Ishii(石井明美)was the one singer who decided to do a cover version of "Lambada" as her 8th single released in March 1990. As someone who also fell under the thrall of the Latin rhythm, I not only ended up getting her cover via her 4th album, "Nettaiya"(熱帯夜...Sultry Night)which came out later in July, but I also got the original version by French-Brazilian pop unit, Kaoma, via CD single (released in 1989). And I'm still glad that I got that single, too, since whenever I do pop it into the player, I get all those feels from my JET days once again.

The crazy thing, though, is that Kaoma really wasn't responsible for the original version. And "Lambada" wasn't really the original title.

"Llorando se fue" was the birth title (in Japan, it is known as "Nakinagara"...泣きながら/While Crying), and it was released all the way back in 1981 by the Bolivian folk band, Los Kjarkas. Translated as "Crying, He/She Went Away", the true original was quite a bit more laid back in delivery unlike its peppy incarnation as "Lambada". Los Kjarkas got rather peppy as well since Kaoma apparently did an unauthorized interpretation of the song which resulted in the worldwide phenomenon. One lawsuit later, the latter started paying the licensing fees to the former, and presumably, Los Kjarkas was dancing its own way to the bank.

"Llorando se fue" was written and composed by Ulises Hermosa and Gonzalo Hermosa. As for the Ishii cover, Kaoru Asagi(麻木かおる)took care of the Japanese lyrics.

I never dared to dance to the Lambada, and especially now I would most likely break my hip instead of shaking it.


Anzen Chitai -- Ame no chihare (雨のち晴れ)

Although I don't have a long history with mainstream J-pop/rock band Anzen Chitai (安全地帯) - we're comparing about a year of them to almost 5 years of Chage & Aska - I managed to pick up some favorite tunes by the quintet along the way. One of them being their 26th single 'Ame no chihare', which roughly translates to clear skies after the rain.

In fact, it was one of the first 5 Anzen Chitai songs I had come to know through random YouTube searches. After hearing its cheery, upbeat music composed by front man Koji Tamaki (玉置浩二) himself, the feel-good tune began to have heavy rotation over the course of a month late last year while hitting the books big time in preparation for the national exams, the GCE 'O' levels, also known as every 16/17 year-old Singaporean kid's worst nightmare. 

So during that horrible period at least by listening to the lighthearted 'Ame no chihare' and seeing the unfortunately now deleted MV of the group happily singing away in a wide open field and playing (or at least trying to) a game of baseball in a puddle ridden pitch, I was able to relieve some of the burden... and kinda ignore Aska's ongoing predicament...

Although I like the song, I don't think it was that well recieved since it was released in 2003 - way past their prime in the 80's - and when I tried to find videos of it on YouTube, 95% of the results came out as a Mr Children's song under the same name... from my knowledge, Mr Children seems to have the upperhand in the early 2000's, so I suppose it was inevitable.

Oh yeah I almost forgot, the lyrics were done by Chihiro Kurozu (黒須 チヒロ ).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nona Reeves -- Daydream Park

Another track I enjoyed from the City Pop/J-AOR compilation album "Light & Mellow - Moment" along with Mariko Tone's(刀根麻理子)"Just A Moment" was Nona Reeves' "Daydream Park". There are already a few other entries in the blog by this cool band but "Daydream Park" comes about 8 years after those disco songs, and this one is more for the Prince funk. Written and composed by vocalist Gota Nishidera(西寺郷太)as the title track for their 8th album from February 2007, Nishidera goes into sexy growl mode as he swoons about the woman of his dreams who he promptly labels as his daydream park.

"Daydream Park" keeps on the insistent funk beat and then Nishidera has even more fun with the chorus as he leads them into a merry call-and-back chase. He even uses the slang expression "crackalackin" or something close to it....a word that's probably quite dead now or only used by late-night talk show hosts in America trying to be post-ironically funny.

Mariko Tone -- Just A Moment

I'd been ignoring Mariko Tone(刀根麻理子)for a long time...something that I now regret. I've come across her name over the years through the Net and during my forays into the music stores of Tokyo but never gave her a shot.

During those 2 weeks in Japan, another disc I bought during my mad rush through those same old stores was my 2nd purchase of the "Light and Mellow" series of City Pop/J-AOR tunes (this disc being called "Moment"). And after listening to it for the first time earlier this afternoon, I discovered Tone's "Just A Moment", which is indeed a light and mellow ballad reminiscent of a lot of those David Foster and Rod Temperton pop songs from the 80s. Man, if there are any more of these tunes in her career, I will have to extend my Xmas wish list in the next couple of months. "Just A Moment" came from her 4th album from May 1987, "Just My Tone" (clever). It was written by Tone along with Gary Stockdale (who also composed it) and Dave DeLuca.

Going through her J-Wiki and Wiki entries, I found out that the Kawasaki-born Tone debuted back in 1984 with "Derringer" which was the second theme song for the anime "Cat's Eye" following the more famous titular song by Anri(杏里). Listening to that one as well and thinking about "Just A Moment", there seems to be a certain parallel in their sound when it comes to the two singers. But hey, it's all good for me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Seiko Matsuda -- Heart no Earring (ハートのイアリング)

"Stay with me..."

For some reason, "Heart no Earring" (Heart Earring) has been one of the quintessential Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)songs. I think it's just the way she especially delivers that first line in that sweet chirp of a voice; I suddenly get that image of My Little Pony and sugar and spice and all that's nice. As I recall, our Seiko-chan specialist back in our days of hitting Kuri in Yorkville was always singing her 19th single, and getting some good measure of applause once she finished.

"Heart no Earring" was released back in November 1984, and I actually heard the original version from her 10th album, "Windy Shadow" which came out a few weeks later in December. The lyrics about a young lady who is trying to entice that beau of her dreams from that other girl were written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and the laid back melody was by Holland Rose. It hit No. 1 and despite the lateness of the debut, the song managed to become the 68th-ranked song of 1984. It even went up a couple of spots to No. 66 for 1985.

Now, as for that Holland Rose character. Well, it was apparently a pseudonym straight out of the playbook that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)had used to create her Karuho Kureta (呉田軽穂...when read in the Japanese way, it sounds a bit like Greta Garbo) moniker when she created songs for Seiko. Pop-rocker Motoharu Sano(佐野元春)was hosting his radio program when one of his listeners, an elementary school student, mistakenly wrote mail with "Holland Rose" in katakana when he/she had meant to refer to American duo Hall & Oates. Sano was amused enough to adopt it as a pen name when he gave his contributions to the Seiko discography.

Courtesy of
from Flickr

ZYYG, REV, ZARD & WANDS featuring Shigeo Nagashima -- Hateshinai Yume wo (果てしない夢を)

What triggered my memory of this interesting oddity was Marcos V's article on that Mood Kayo duet between SDN48 and television presenter Monta Mino, "Kudokinagara Azabu-Juban"(口説きながら麻布十番). I think there have been a fair share of duets between singers and non-singing celebs over the years, and "Hateshinai Yume wo" is one that has really settled into my brain.

I was never a big Japanese baseball fan but even I couldn't avoid the Shigeo Nagashima(長嶋茂雄). He is the legendary Mr. Giants...the winning Tokyo (Yomiuri) Giants player from 1958-1974 and then manager of the same club from 1975-1980 and then 1993-2001. What has also increased his stature among the folks is his affable adorkability due to forgetfulness (feigned or not) and his hilarious remarks, often involving English (just check out the Trivia section in the Wiki article on him). Just imagine New York Yankees' Hideki Matsui and Yogi Berra spliced together. I've always stated that when Nagashima leaves this mortal coil altogether, there probably will be a few days of national mourning, whether or not one loved or hated the Giants.

So, just imagine my surprise when my J-Pop-loving university friend back in the 80s lent me a CD single of this mega-collaboration of pop/rock artists whose names sound like they were fished out of a bag of Scrabble tiles. And Nagashima is in there, too. "Hateshinai Yume wo" (Neverending Dream) was written by Show Wesugi(上杉昇)of rock band WANDS and the late Izumi Sakai(坂井泉水)of ZARD while Masayuki Deguchi(出口雅之), aka REV, took care of the composing duties, and the song was meant to be the theme for NTV's nightly baseball program back in 1993.

The result was this rousing song of determination to boil up the blood of many a baseball player (pro, amateur or armchair) with this 90s J-Rock sound that made me wonder why B'z didn't get into this project. I also have to say that Sakai and one of the other vocals must have been reaching for the throat lozenges considering how high their voices had to go during recording. However, one must not forget the inclusion of Mr. Giants near the end....who frankly sounds like my father at the few times he's been to karaoke. Nagashima's adorkability quotient probably spiked a bit from this song as well.

Released in June 1993, "Hateshinai Yume wo" went as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became the 39th-ranked song of the year.