Credits

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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Miho Yonemitsu & Yuko Anai -- Shuushoku Kyousoukyoku (秋色協奏曲)


It’s been a while since I listened to a gorgeous melody, and I’d never guess a group like Tokyo Performance Doll (東京パフォーマンスドール), famous for their professional dance routines in the early 90s, was going to grace me with one these days.

“Shuushoku Kyousoukyoku” is a song recorded by two TPD members, Miho Yonemitsu (米光美保) and Yuko Anai (穴井夕子), which was first included in the group’s third album, “Cha-Dance Party Vol. 3, in november 1991. However, I only discovered it in Yuko Anai’s solo album, “Yuko from Tokyo Performance Doll”, released in January 1993.

About the song, the only thing I know is that everytime they start singing the melodic “aki iro concerto” line, I just melt. And it gets even better when it interpolates with the orchestral synths in the arrangement near the ending. Noteworthy, everything here, from the second voice in the aforementioned “aki iro concerto” line to the lively arrangement, is well executed. In all honesty, I could never think something like that could come from TPD’s factory.

Recently, the song has been performed by Fumi Oto (大藤史), also from TPD, in a piano ballad version. The focus of this version is the strong melody, but also Oto’s beautiful vocals. I’d love a studio version of this one as well.


Now, this last thing has nothing to do with the proper article, but I’ve been listening to this song a lot in the past few days. It’s a Latin/Brazilian-styled Italo Disco from Italian singer/composer/producer/keyboardist Stefano Pulga (from Italo Disco band Kano) called “Welcome To Brasilia” (Brasilia is actually Brazil’s capital, even though Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the most known major cities). I’ve been in love with all the synths and the song’s groovy nature, so that’s why I’m sharing it here... without any purpose.


Back to “Shuushoku Kyousoukyoku”, lyrics were written by Kononoko (神野々子), while music was composed by Fujiki Kazuto (藤木和人). As for the arrangement, Thousand sketcheS was the responsible.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Announcement - HTTPS

Probably not a major matter for all those who know computers more than I do (which probably includes 95% of the readers) but I got the following notification from Blogger.

Your HTTPS settings have changed. All visitors are now able to view your blog over an encrypted connection by visiting https://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.com.

Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.


Naoko Kawai -- Invitation


Another lovely discovery here, Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)"Invitation" is the follow-up 11th single to her hit "Kenka wo Yamete"(けんかをやめて). As was the case with her 10th single, this ditty was also written and composed by Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや) but unlike the 50s bobbysoxer ballad that was "Kenka wo Yamete", "Invitation" is a contemporary straight-ahead ballad about a girl getting and accepting that invitation to her guy's room for the first time. Nothing sordid will go on here...good heavens, knowing how thin the walls are in Japanese houses, Mom and Dad would race upstairs with as much of the bladed silverware as they could carry if they heard so much as an emotional sigh through the ceiling.


Melodically speaking, it does make for a fine nostalgic listen with all those strings and cute keyboards of the 1980s. And aside from lyrics talking about that innocent meeting in the bedroom, any video that could have been made about the song would have featured young Naoko sitting on the balcony at night and singing to the moon.

"Invitation" went as high as No. 8 on Oricon and finished 1983 as the 70th-ranked song of the year (it was released in December 1982). Nope, perhaps it didn't get quite the acclaim that "Kenka wo Yamete" got, but it's still a nice little ballad.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Ichiro Fujiyama -- Nicolai no Kane (ニコライの鐘)


I'm not a religious person by any means although I visited my fair share of temples and shrines in Tokyo and at one point, I even went to a Catholic church near Shibuya to attend a Xmas concert featuring a fellow teaching colleague from an old school.

However, I never got to see the church featured in this song although I have to say according to the visuals in the above YouTube video, it's a pretty impressive structure. This is the Holy Resurrection Cathedral which also goes by the name of Nikolai-do. It's located in the Kanda district of Tokyo where it was completed in 1891 and founded by the founder of the Japanese Orthodox Church who would become known as St. Nicholas of Japan. Continuing on from the Wikipedia description, the church was built to look over the Imperial Palace but over the many decades, it has become inundated by the tall skyscrapers.

Yesterday, I caught the latest episode of NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)in which one of the local citizen singers came up to sing this old chestnut called "Nicolai no Kane" (The Bells of Nicolai). I thought it was resonant enough for me to write about it today. The original singer was Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)and the song was released in December 1951 with the music by Yuji Koseki(古関裕而)and words by Yutaka Kadota(門田ゆたか). "Nicolai no Kane" was way before my time but I was still attracted by its melancholy yet proud arrangement. The first verse spoke about this fine church in the valley as the sun set but then the second verse got to the crux of the ballad as Fujiyama crooned about finding out about the loss of a love and then praying for some help. I couldn't say that this was made as an enka tune but there was plenty of emotion flowing from it to make this a Mood Kayo that didn't take place in a bar...far from it.


Kenji Niinuma(新沼謙治)performs the song on stage here and I couldn't ask for a better person to sing it than him. His voice has got the right type of vibrato to sing this with the ideal amount of melancholy. Fujiyama actually was able to perform "Nicolai no Kane" on the 6th edition of the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of 1955.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sftrajan/880082492/?ytcheck=1

Keisuke Yamauchi -- Ruten no Hatoba (流転の波止場)


When it comes to the younger batch of enka performers, the level of scrutiny I place on them is quite high, and I think it's due in part to me wanting them to live up to the standards of their predecessors I adore and wish to be able to see perform, and to a lesser extent, maybe be a little like them. But I realise that it is quite unfair as they each have their own style of singing and whether or not they sound like a modern-day Yujiro Ishihara or Haruo Minami, even when singing one of the late veterans' hits, frankly, shouldn't matter.

As to why I brought this up: Keisuke Yamauchi (山内恵介) is a prime example of what I had just mentioned. I tend to get riled up whenever he were to attempt a Tough Guy tune as I didn't think he had the voice to carry it - nasally and relatively high-pitched, rather than deep and mellow. However, I have to admit that although it's not a similar voice, Yamauchi doesn't sound that bad. And if he were to wear an outfit that's not too glitzy and a size or two too big, he's actually a rather decent and respectable enka singer. Still, it'd be better if he were to sing something more befitting of his genteel appearance. Case in point, "Ruten no Hatoba".


I'd describe Yamauchi's 17th single as a mix of "Ano Ko ga Naiteru Hatoba" (あの娘が泣いてる波止場) and "Genkai Blues" (玄海ブルース), and a dash of "Minato Machi Blues" (港町ブルース) to add the finishing touch. All three of these songs happen to be a few of my enka-favourites so it was no wonder why this became the first of Yamauchi's repertoire to be liked by me. Put together by Hideo Mizumori (水森英夫), who also happens to be Yamauchi's mentor, and his frequent collaborator Toshiya Niitani (仁井谷俊也), "Ruten no Hatoba" has a jaunty melody but the lyrics are of a young man leaving his hometown (and a loved one who's reluctant to see him go) to chase his dreams, which has him travelling to various places in the country - from Hokkaido all the way down to Kyushu.

"Ruten no Hatoba" was released on 23rd March 2016 and was the enka Ikemen 3 member's first single to get into the top 5 (5th place) in the regular Oricon charts in of his 15 years of showbiz, while also peaking at 1st on the enka-yo charts.

amazon.co.jp

Well, this is going on to the list of stuff to buy in Japan... Man, that's gonna A LOT of stuff.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Momoko Hayashi -- You make me happy!


About a couple of weeks ago, I put in an article about Aya Matsuura's(松浦亜弥)"Yeah! Meccha Holiday"(Yeah! めっちゃホリディ)in which I also noted that the Hello Project aidoru had an impersonating admirer in the form of tarento Ai Haruna(はるな愛). Well, I completely forgot that Haruna wasn't the only Japanese celebrity who enjoyed performing "Air Ayaya". There was also fellow impersonator Ken Maeda(前田健)who comes in at about 2:20 of the above video. With the real Ayaya and her two impersonators in the same room, hilarity results. Although not as much as Haruna, I remember seeing Maeda appear on the various variety shows taking on other guises including that of a typical ko-gal.


Well, 2016 has been a very sad year so far in terms of the music world with so many musicians passing on rather suddenly. The anime world as well has also had some similar sadness to a smaller extent over the past several months. Seiyuu Miyu Matsuki(松来未祐)died late last year due to illness and then just over the past week, the aforementioned Ken Maeda left this mortal coil at the age of 44 because of what seems to be heart failure.

Maeda didn't make a huge contribution to anime since he only performed 2 roles in that genre. However he did apply his other talent of choreography to an anime franchise that was perhaps in need of some reformation at the time. The "Pretty Cure" series(プリキュアシリーズ)had already been around on TV Asahi for about half a decade but according to my anime buddy, following the adventures of the first three Precure teams, the powers-that-be decided that it needed a bit of a shakeup. So, there was a change in production staff and a slightly older team for the new show known as "Fresh Precure!"(フレッシュプリキュア!)which premiered in 2009.

Then, there were the ending credits. In the earlier shows, there was some dancing of a somewhat clunky variety involved with the characters but it looks like the producers decided to amp up the choreography with the contribution of MaeKen and with the addition of some 3D-esque visuals along with music that touched upon different genres, the new team launched a new tradition in the franchise in those ending credits that would continue until the present day. Maeda would also help out in the credits dances for another few seasons and he played the character of Kaoru-chan, the eccentric and good-hearted mobile donut seller on "Fresh Precure!".


But I have to say that the first ending theme for "Fresh Precure!" has been the standard-bearer. "You make me happy!" indeed makes me happy. It was written by Sumiyo Mutsumi(六ツ見純代)and composed by singer-songwriter marhy with Momoko Hayashi(林桃子)on vocals, and I think the fans who actually saw the credits for the first time must have been surprised to hear some good old-fashioned R&B with snazzy horns enter the Precure universe. In a way, the song reminds me of some of Keizo Nakanishi's(中西圭三)early stuff back in the 90s.

"You make me happy!" was released as part of a single including the opening theme, "Let's! Fresh Precure!" in February 2009. It got as high as No. 25 on the singles charts.


To leave off, here is MaeKen with his other famous character.


The Ventures/Yuko Nagisa -- Kyoto no Koi (京都の恋)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sebastiantiger/3038474206/

May Day today! Therefore in Japan, it's the middle of the annual Golden Week holidays so once again the world's longest traffic jams are in play, and over here it's been an unseasonably cold start to the fifth month but what else is new in Toronto? I took the parents out to the local Eggsmart (a breakfast/brunch restaurant chain) for brekkie as an early Mother's Day present and I'm back here to hopefully enjoy a quiet Sunday.



If I recall correctly, I have been to the ancient capital of Kyoto three times in my life with the first time being in 1972 that I have no memory of. The second time was in the summer of 1981 and I remember being really deep in the crowds watching a parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) trundle by during the city's annual Gion Festival. And being July, it was tremendously hot and humid so it was a minor miracle that I actually survived the experience. I also recall being completely conked out in my bed in the hotel for most of the afternoon afterwards. My love for vending machines continued to grow.


Last week's "Utakon" (うたコン) featured an old kayo associated with the city called "Kyoto no Koi". Although literally translated as "Kyoto Love", the official English title is "Kyoto Doll" for some reason. This was another song contributed by The Ventures for Japan along with "Kyoto Bojou" (京都慕情)and the earlier "Futari no Ginza"(二人の銀座). Released by the band in February 1970, although it goes along at a fairly brisk pace, there is that certain melacholy wa-fu feeling to it. It peaked at No. 19 on Oricon. What is also notable about that The Ventures created the song in commemoration of the 1970 Expo in Osaka.


However, the version that I like even better is the cover by Yuko Nagisa(渚ゆう子)with the lyrics by Haruo Hayashi(林春生), both of whom would also cover "Kyoto Bojou" a few months later. Nagisa's version came out 3 months after The Ventures' original, and what I like about it is that although it basically has that same dramatic pace, there is a certain appealing tenderness in the sung version thanks to Nagisa's vocals. Of course, Hayashi's lyrics about the heroine mourning the loss of what seemed to be the love of her life certainly adds to the sadness. Compared to the relatively lighter feeling of "Kyoto Bojou", "Kyoto no Koi" is bittersweet at best.

Nagisa's "Kyoto no Koi" was a huge hit. It got to No. 1 and stayed there for 8 consecutive weeks, selling more than 850,000 records. And along with the fact that it won a Grand Prize at the Japan Record Awards, it was No. 10 in the annual singles rankings for 1970 and still hung on in 1971 to become the 27th-ranked single. All those accolades and apparently it didn't get onto the Kohaku Utagassen that year.