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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Shonentai -- ABC

I am becoming further convinced that prolific composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)is capable of weaving up any song in any genre. You can take a look at the man's range via the Creator article I wrote up about him some time ago, but with this song, Shonentai's(少年隊)7th single, "ABC", he took on rapidfire Eurobeat.

Tsutsumi was once again paired up with lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)to create "ABC", which was released back in November 1987. This was the same songwriting duo that took care of Hiromi Ohta's(太田裕美)classic kayo "Momen no Handkerchief"(木綿のハンカチーフ)back in 1975, but a dozen years later, Tsutsumi and Matsumoto went for some more high energy.

Among the various VHS tapes of the ranking shows that my family rented from Nippon Video back in the day, Shonentai's (which has been translated in Wikipedia as "Regiment of Boys"...OK, I can take that, although perhaps "Boys' Squad" might be a bit better) "ABC" was one of the heavy rotation appearances. So, on shows like "The Best 10", I got to see Higashiyama and the other two boys kick it up a notch fairly regularly to a beat that at the time sounded rather Latin (I had no idea about what Eurobeat was all about at the time) to me. It was definitely one of the catchier melodies that I've remembered throughout the years.

"ABC'...which stood for "Angel, Baby, Cupid" according to the lyrics...hit No. 1 on Oricon, and finished 1987 at the 81st position; not too bad considering the late release. But then it reached higher by the end of the next year when it finished at No. 67. For Shonentai, it was their 6th No. 1 hit of the 7 singles that had been released thus far.

I also came upon a remix version of "ABC" via Yasuharu Konishi's(小西康陽)remix album for 1996-2010.


Minako Yoshida -- Rainbow Sea Line (レインボー・シー・ライン)

I came across this early Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)entry through a City Pop compilation album that was entered up at music163 although the tracks and the artists are all hopelessly mixed up. For one thing, "Rainbow Sea Line" was labeled as being a Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)song and although I have all of her solo albums dating up to 1984, I don't remember any of her songs with that title.

Mind you, the song started with that breeziness that characterized a number of Ohnuki's songs in her first two albums of "Grey Skies" and "Sunshower". However, as I listened to the soulfulness of the vocals, I guessed that it was Minako Yoshida, and sure enough a few taps on would confirm my guess. However, I have a feeling that Ohnuki may have been on backup vocal duty here.

"Rainbow Sea Line" was a track on her first album for RCA, "MINAKO", released in October 1975 with Yoshida providing the lyrics of enjoying love and life near the port. The late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)composed the serene music. I'm not sure whether the singer was inspired by a real geographical point or a train route, but if it does exist, I'd say it got itself a wonderful theme tune.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mariya Takeuchi -- Mafuyu no Date (真冬のデート)

Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"Mafuyu no Date" (A Mid-Winter Date) was the coupling song to her hit single, "Kon'ya wa Hearty Party"(今夜はHearty Party) which was released in November 1995. Unlike the urban, raucous and KimuTaku-assisted "Side A" song, "Mafuyu no Date" rather hearkens back to her early days as a singer with her melodic tributes to the 50s and 60s. The scenery that is hinted at here is definitely not a downtown disco but more of a quiet stroll down Lovers' Lane in the depths of December.

Takeuchi was behind music and lyrics for this ballad. As much as I love "Kon'ya wa Hearty Party", "Mafuyu no Date" also has a nice warmth to it to the extent that I dubbed it onto my mix audiotape of J-Xmas hits. Listen to it over that cup of hot chocolate.

The song is actually a self-cover for a track that was sung by singer-songwriter Eri Morishita(森下恵理). And Takeuchi's cover can also be found on her epic BEST compilation "Expressions".

Courtesy of
Maximilian B. Nucci
from Flickr

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Happy Holiday

Well, the past couple of weeks have not been the kindest to me in terms of my health. I had a small case of shingles, followed by several days of lower back pain which necessitated a visit to the doctor and then just yesterday, I ended up with a touch of stomach flu. That last ailment knocked me on my back for most of the day.

However, I'm on the mend in all departments now and currently I'm on the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) to rehabilitate that large sack in my torso. Another step towards my rehabilitation? Adding another article onto the blog after a few days away. I'm going with the Xmas theme today, and so I'm introducing Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)cover of "Happy Holiday" by Bob Staunton. The song was originally a track on Yamashita's 1993 album, "Seasons Greetings", and it showcases a couple of his traits: his love for the oldies and how he likes acapella. 

When I first heard it, I had thought it was a Tats original. However, I later discovered it was a cover of a doo-wop Xmas tune by The Sherwoods in 1961. The group had actually started as a subgroup of the Cornell University Glee Club.

Courtesy of
from Flickr

Saturday, December 20, 2014

ribbon -- Soba ni Iru ne (そばにいるね)

There was a time, in the late 80s/early 90s when aidoru was quickly becoming an obsolete aesthetic. Contrary to this sad chapter in aidoru’s history, a TV show called Paradise GoGo!! (田代まさしのパラダイスGoGo!!) trained a number of young girls and formed famous aidoru groups like CoCo and ribbon, and also soloists, like Yuko Hanashima (花島優子) and Michiyo Nakajima (中嶋美智代), during that period.

ribbon was a trio formed in 1989, and their first single, “Little Date” (リトルデイト), was used in the Ranma ½ (らんま½) anime. The group lasted four years, from 1989 to 1993, but even though active for just a few years, they released seven albums and thirteen singles, giving the fans a lot to have fun with.

“Soba ni Iru ne” was ribbon’s second single, released in April 1990. At first, I didn’t give too much attention to it, but, after a few more listens, the lovely melody from the pre-chorus, as well as the dated synths, just caught me. Also, as was the case with CoCo and other Paradise GoGo!!’s aidoru acts, ribbon seemed like a return to the aidoru’s innocent times after the more Eurobeat/dance-oriented divas like Chisato Moritaka (森高千里) and the girl band boom of the late 80s.

"Soba ni Iru ne" was used in the anime “Time Travel Tondekeman” (たいむとらぶる トンデケマン!). It reached #9 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics for the song were written by Yoshiko Miura (三浦徳子), while music and arrangement were done by Goto Tsugutoshi (後藤次利).


Michiyo Nakajima -- Akai Hanataba (赤い花束)

Another aidoru coming from the Paradise GoGo!! (田代まさしのパラダイスGoGo!!) TV show, Michiyo Nakajima (中嶋美智代 / 中嶋ミチヨ) started her career in early 1991 with the single “Akai Hanataba”, released in January.

I remember when I first listened to Michiyo Nakajima’s small discography and realized she mainly had sentimental aidoru tunes, like her debut “Akai Hanataba”. I liked that one, although an entire discography with similar songs was kind of tiring for me. In the end, I only selected this one for my daily routine and stored her best album in my HD. So, when I need a melancholic aidoru song like that, I come back to “Akai Hanataba” and have my share of aidoru sadness.

I also enjoy the video very much, thanks to its nostalgic fator. I was a baby when it was released, but I really connect well with the early 90s. Seeing the young and cute Michiyo is also a treat for an aidoru fan, especially in the scenes her hair is curly and she’s wearing red lipstick in the lips.

The single reached #9 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Kyoko Endo (遠藤響子), while music was composed by Ichiro Haneda (羽田一郎). As for the arrangement, it was done by Satoshi Takebe (武部聡志).


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yukiko Okada -- Wonder Trip Lover/Bernard Fowler -- Ballet Mecanique/Miki Nakatani -- Chronic Love

A little more than 8 months ago, nikala contributed an Author's Pick in the form of her Techno-Kayo Playlist. Aside from Imokin Trio's "High School Lullaby", I hadn't known about the rest of the list and it was fascinating to read about and hear these songs that were created through that filter of technopop, the genre that was spearheaded by the Yellow Magic Orchestra from the late 70s.

The one entry on nikala's list that especially had my attention was "Wonder Trip Lover" by aidoru Yukiko Okada(岡田有希子). For one thing, although I hadn't known this song proper, I knew it in its future incarnation as "Chronic Love"(クロニック・ラヴ)by singer-actress Miki Nakatani(中谷美紀)since I sometimes caught her TV detective drama, "Keizoku"(ケイゾク...Unsolved Cases), which had that particular song as its theme.

Initially, I had been going to talk about just "Chronic Love" and the version of the song that was between it and "Wonder Trip Lover", "Ballet Mecanique" since nikala gave her two cents (strictly speaking in Canada, it should be two nickels since the 1-cent coin has been retired) on the original version by the late Okada. However, listening to "Wonder Trip Lover", I realized that I wanted to give my own brief opinion on the song via follow-up.

My fellow collaborator mentioned about the sax and galloping drumming that set "Wonder Trip Lover" apart from Okada's other songs. I can also go beyond that and say that the song is simply a cut above/apart the usual aidoru tune. It is indeed an aidoru tune because of the vocals behind it but it is also quite different from the run-of-the-mill aidoru song because of that interesting arrangement, and in addition, Okada sounded very unlike her regularly girlish self from her other contributions such as "Kuchibiru Network" and "Dreaming Girl". There was something nearly operatic...even avant-garde...with her delivery. Unfortunately the above YouTube video only has the sound from that Heart Jack Tour of hers so I cannot see how she performed "Wonder Trip Girl"...I couldn't imagine she was sashaying around to this song as would be the case with the usual aidoru and her cute tune. I'd only muse that Yukiko would have been more at home in one of the intriguing outfits worn by members of YMO.

Speaking of one of my favourite bands anywhere, Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)composed this song with City Pop princess EPO providing the lyrics. I had a conversation with nikala the other day and I mentioned that The Professor during that time could really do no wrong when it came to creating fascinating tunes for other singers. "Wonder Trip Lover" continued that streak.

Just a month after "Wonder Trip Lover" made its presence felt as the leadoff track for Okada's final album in March 1986, "Venus Tanjo"(ヴィーナス誕生...The Birth of Venus), Sakamoto made a cover version of his creation under the new title of "Ballet Mecanique", named after the 1924 Dadaist film by Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy. However, instead of the techno kayo march that its predecessor was, Sakamoto's version is a slightly bipolar mix of quiet and innocent dream music and screeching-like-a-rabid-horse electric guitar. The vocals were supplied by Bernard Fowler, a musician and actor who has had a long history providing backup vocals to The Rolling Stones. The lyrics were also changed into English and contributed by Sakamoto's then-wife Akiko Yano(矢野顕子).

"Ballet Mecanique" first appeared as a track on Sakamoto's 6th album, "Mirai-ha Yaro"(未来派野郎...Futurism Guy), but I came across it as a part of his live album, "Media Bahn Live" which was released later in the year in September.

The last version is the first version that I ever heard of this ever-morphing song. As I mentioned, this was the theme song for Miki Nakatani's "Keizoku", and Nakatani herself provided the English & Japanese lyrics for "Chronic Love". Her 7th single from February 1999, the music here was a bit flightier and eccentric, kinda like her character of Jun Shibata on the show. The song managed to peak at No. 14 on Oricon and was placed as a track on her 3rd album, "Shiseikatsu"(私生活...Private Life)from November 1999.

The above video has all of the quirky episode openings for "Keizoku" with the theme song by Nakatani.

A few paragraphs above, I mentioned that nikala and I had a good talk. I'm happy to say that for the first time in "Kayo Kyoku Plus" history, I could finally meet a collaborator in person for a coffee the other day. It's not all that easy since most of us are located all over the globe, but it was fortunate that the two of us lived in the general area of Toronto. Hopefully, someday, all of us can somehow meet up whether it be in our respective countries or the nation where our mutual music interest lies.