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.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hiromi Go -- Hadaka no Venus (裸のビーナス)

Now, the YouTube video above is a karaoke version but I just had to import it because of that picture of Hiromi Go's(郷ひろみ)cover for his 5th single, "Hadaka no Venus" (Nude Venus). Being a Trekkie and all, I recall seeing one of the episodes from the 1st season of Classic Trek titled "Arena" when a bloodied and beaten Captain Kirk had a final meeting with a god-like alien called a Metron. We never got a particularly close-up look of the fellow but if we did, he would like Go above.

I saw Go on a recent episode of "Kayo Concert" in which he introduced his latest 100th single (!), and he was still looking very much like the J-Lothario at the age of 59. It's hard to imagine that he was ever a kid, but indeed he was when he first sang "Hadaka no Venus" at the tender age of 17. The music by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was real nostalgic 70s although with its energy, it sounded like something that Pink Lady would've been happy to tackle. Tokiko Iwatani's(岩谷時子)lyrics had the innocent-looking Go slavering away at this girl who he compared to that titular woman on the half-shell in the ocean. I think he's polished his approach a whole lot more since then.

The above is a video for the opening part of "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ...Night Hit Studio). For all those of who have watched it, you know that the intro part has all of the night's guests singing the songs of the following singers. Go is the final guy in the link so you'll have pull the slider to the right a fair bit to get to him or you can enjoy some of the other kayo that was hot way back when.

"Hadaka no Venus" peaked at No. 2 on Oricon after its release in June 1973 and ended up as the 16th-ranked single of the year. It was also a track on his 3rd album released in January 1974, "Hiromi no Heya"(ひろみの部屋...Hiromi's Room).

Spectrum -- Sunrise

Man, this is one interesting discovery on YouTube. I had no idea what this band Spectrum was all about but looking at that long hair and the spaced-out getups, I just had to take a peek. And what I got was something like the Japanese version of KC & The Sunshine Band.

Spectrum was a band that had a short shelf life of two years from 1979-1981 and it focused on brass-based rock, jazz and fusion. The leader was Ichiro Nitta(新田一郎)who was also the main vocalist and trumpet player on the band, and he led quite the gimmicky crew with those costumes and the fact that he was labeled Spectre (or Specta?) No. 1 with the members following suit with the numbers. I was surprised to find out that Spectre No. 6 was Keiichi Oku(奥慶一), the keyboardist, since he would also be a composer for a number of singers such as Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美).

Single No. 4 (out of a total of 7) was "Sunrise" (June 1980) which sounded more like a supernova rising up from the horizon. Written by Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)and composed by Spectrum, the intro with the brass sounds like something I've heard over and over as an intro for action scenes on variety shows, and judging from some of the Japanese comments I've read on YouTube, it seems like a number of folks were also surprised at the origins. In fact, I read on the J-Wiki article for the band that the song was actually used as the entry theme for an American wrestler by the name of Stan Hansen who found a lot of success in Japan.

Speaking about the comparisons with American bands such as good ol' KC & The Sunshine Band, Spectrum were also called imitators of Earth Wind & Fire, but apparently they were more along the lines of Chicago and Kool & The Gang in terms of influences. In fact, according to that J-Wiki article, Spectre No. 1 stated that his entire life changed when he heard the first track on Chicago's debut album from 1969 when they were called The Chicago Transit Authority.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Aya Hirano, Minori Chihara, Yuko Goto, Natsuko Kuwatani & Yuki Matsuoka -- Fure Fure Mirai (フレ降レミライ)

Bear with me here for some several lines while I set tonight's article up. For years, I used to watch the American sitcom "MASH" which featured the comedy and drama surrounding the doctors and nurses of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4077 during the Korean War. The show lasted 3 times longer than the actual Korean War and made household names out of the entire cast.

Then, sometime after the tearjerking finale in 1984, I was shocked when I saw most of the cast come back in a series of TV ads for good ol' Big Blue, aka IBM. To see folks like Major Frank Burns, Father Mulcahy and Radar O'Reilly pop up as modern working folk in a trendy looking startup was really quite fascinating.

That's how I kinda look at the situation with the 2006 "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and the currently-running (for a few more weeks, anyways) 2015 "The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan". In the former show, there were all of these high school characters of whom most were actually aliens investigating a Miss Haruhi Suzumiya(涼宮ハルヒ)who may be the most powerful being in the universe. It made quite the splash in its first season but then apparently almost sank under the notorious story of "The Endless Eight" in its second season (my anime buddy is a huge fan of the franchise and even he won't let me get anywhere near that one).

Cue ahead almost a decade. Well, mind you, in my case, it would only be a few years since I played a lot of catch-up where the franchise was concerned since I only started seeing it from around 2012. We all find out that "Haruhi" is coming back but it would be an alternate universe version focusing on the character of Yuki Nagato(長門有希). The characters and their accompanying seiyuu are the same, along with the setting, but everyone is absolutely 100% human and the plot has been focused for the most part on down-to-earth relationships among the kids with a mix of comedy and drama. More importantly, Nagato is not a superhuman artificial humanoid who could possibly give a certain Kryptonian a run for his money but a timid high school girl with the hots for good guy Kyon(キョン). It's kinda like taking Mr. Spock and making him a Bostonian librarian by the name of Lenny.

The opening theme, "Fure Fure Mirai" (Rainy Rainy Future), also has that feeling of familiarity and something new. Sung by all of the female cast known collectively as the Kitakou Bungeibu Joshikai (北高文芸部女子会...North High Literary Club Girls' Association), I decided to identify everyone by name up above. There is that very big echo back to the ending theme from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", "Hare Hare Yukai"(ハレ晴レユカイ)although it's not quite as catchy as that latter theme (perhaps it will grow on me in time) and the only dancing involved in the opening credits is a very brief second of Miley Cyrus moves. But I figure that's probably the way it should be since Haruhi would definitely be the type to drag everybody for a dance-a-thon whereas Yuki is more demure about such exploits.

Aki Hata(畑亜貴)was responsible for the lyrics for "Fure Fure Mirai" as she was also for "Hare Hare Yukai", but this time the composer was Yugo Sasakura(佐々倉有吾). Actually, maybe it is growing on me much more since I've been enjoying the full version of the song; it certainly sounds as if the cast was enjoying themselves in the recording booth. There are just a few more episodes left in this series but unlike the seemingly dour tone of the title, I'm hoping that there is a happy resolution of sorts between Yuki and Kyon.

Although I've already done so for the first three seiyuu due to "Hare Hare Yukai", allow me to provide the singers' names in kanji:

Aya Hirano (平野綾)as Haruhi
Minori Chihara(茅原実里)as Yuki
Yuko Goto(後藤邑子)as Mikuru
Natsuko Kuwatani(桑谷夏子)as Ryoko
Yuki Matsuoka (松岡由貴)as Tsuruya-san

Kenji Ninuma -- Tsugaru no Koi Onna (津軽恋女)

To be honest, I find it ticklish to listen to Japanese songs that have the singer repeat one particular word over and over and over again - the lyricists responsible for such tunes must've had an easier time churning out the lyrics. I guess it's due to the fact that this language is not my native tongue, so I pay more attention to how the word sounds like in comparison to what I know in English rather than its meaning. That part comes a little later, especially if the show doesn't have subtitles. Anyway, some examples include "Anata no Blues" (あなたのブルース), "Musoubana" (夢想花), and ever since Tuesday night's "Kayo Concert" featuring songs of the "Northern Country", "Tsugaru no Koi Onna".

Written by Kyosuke Kuni (久仁京介), this song features the Tsugaru region in Aomori - a hot bed for enka - which is known to have cold winters with lot's of snow, so I can see why Kuni had Kenji Ninuma (新沼謙治) sing the word "Yuki" () in rapid succession and even list down the 7 different types of snowfall there at the chorus. The rest of "Tsugaru no Koi Onna" looks to be about a woman from, you guessed it, Tsugaru, pining for her man as she waits for him to return to her - I'm not completely sure if its from the woman's point of view, or the man's, or if Ninuma is just narrating what goes on. And from the looks of the first stanza, she's not taking the separation very well. For a while I wondered how the listing of snow relates to the latter since it seemed to have come out of no where, but I soon (this morning, Singapore time) got the idea that the woman has to wait till all the 7 types of snow have fallen before she can see her loved one again. To complete the song is a rather forlorn and slightly dramatic score composed by Mondo Okura (大倉百人).

"Tsugaru no Koi Onna" was released in 1987 as Ninuma's 27th single. Although there's no information about how well it did, I think "Tsugaru no Koi Onna" did well enough for it to still be sung from time to time. It also seems to be one of Ninuma's more well-known tunes.

The video right here was of the performance earlier this week. It was a duet between Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) and Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい). Fukuda seemed to be holding back on this one.

Wa-hey, Ninuma looks
cool in this picture!

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Ni-juu-go-ji no Ai no Uta (25時の愛の歌)

This ballad by Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)still pops up in my brain from time to time. "Ni-juu-go-ji no Ai no Uta" (Love Song at 1 a.m.) was another Iwasaki contribution to the "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"(火曜サスペンス劇場...Tuesday Night Suspense)series. Iwasaki provided a lot of her ballads to the long-running anthology show of betrayal, murder, mystery and justice during the 1980s...probably to the extent that true justice wasn't served until Iwasaki's lovely voice slid into the ending credits.

"Ni-juu-go-ji no Ai no Uta" was Iwasaki's 38th single from December 1985. It was written by Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)and composed by Toshiyuki Kimori(木森敏之)(although the song sounds more like something Tetsuji Hayashi would concoct), the same duo who created one of the singer's biggest hits, "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby"(聖母たちのララバイ)back in 1982 (and was another contribution to the ending themes for "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"). However, unlike that successful ballad, "Ni-juu-go-ji" only went as high as No. 79 on the Oricon weeklies unfortunately. And yep, by the last word of that last sentence, I do like this song. Whereas "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby" had that feeling of a cooing lullaby, perhaps as reassurance for the hero/heroine of the episode or as a melancholy sendoff for the criminal, "Ni-juu-go-ji" was more in the cooler City Pop vein. As Iwasaki is singing, I could imagine those end credits rolling up the screen as the intrepid detective drives soberly under the city lights of Tokyo at night as he returns to headquarters after another tough case solved.

However, as the title suggests, the detective may be heading for someone cuddlier in the wee hours.

Yumi Yoshimura -- V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N.

Not really feeling in vacation mode myself but, hey, it's the Fourth of July weekend coming up in the States, and I'm sure Americans are on the move. So I thought what would be another ideal J-Pop song to profile that reflects an American vacation.

Well, it was a song that I had been thinking about doing for a while but now that July 4th is upon us, it's a fine time for Yumi Yoshimura's(吉村由美)"V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N". I guess it didn't take long for the folks surrounding Puffy (or Puffy Amiyumi in North America) to decide that with the success they'd had so far that they could have Yumi and Ami Ohnuki(大貫亜美)do some solo stuff. Of the two solo debut songs, Yoshimura's "V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N" is the one that I still remember for her cute if unpolished vocals and for her travelogue music video through the United States.

"V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N" came out in July 1997 and listening to it, I thought that there was a bit of Shibuya-kei in there, and as it turned out, it was Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽)from Pizzicato Five who had written and composed the song. But I also heard some of that old-style jangly rock which reminded me of Tamio Okuda's(奥田民生)work for Puffy. All in all, it wasn't exactly a song that I was willing to buy, but it was still a short-and-sweet aside from the usual Puffy works. It peaked at No. 7 on Oricon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

HALCALI -- Giri Giri Surf Rider (ギリギリ・サーフライダー)

Back when I first started "Kayo Kyoku Plus" in 2012, I did mention the hip-hop dynamic dance duo HALCALI performing the cover of Kome Kome Club's "Roman Hiko"(浪漫飛行)very briefly and up to tonight, that has been it for Tokyo's Halca and Yukali(ハルカ・ユカリ). Actually, I had thought that the ladies hailed from Okinawa.

Well, allow me to rectify that. I used to see a number of HALCALI music videos on one of the Japanese music stations, and to be honest, I was drawn more to the duo's mesmerizing choreography than the actual songs. And the same holds true for their 3rd single, "Giri Giri Surf Rider"(ギリギリ・サーフライダー...Last-Minute Surf Rider)which came out in July 2003. Not to say that Halca and Yukali were bad singers; their hippity-hoppity-poppity and sing-songy delivery of the lyrics added to the charm, but it was seeing the whole package together with the girls singing and dancing that made things really fun.

What I liked about the video for "Giri Giri Surf Rider" was that despite the lyrics about that cool surfer dude on the beach, the visuals concentrated on a potential rumble between a couple of 80s tsuppari gangs before Halca and Yukali save the day and the entire cast ends up dancing the day away on that pier. It was kinda like "Nishi Side Story" for the 21st century. And certainly after a hearty Sunday pancake breakfast in my apartment, the video was an excellent supplement to my coffee.

"Giri Giri Surf Rider" was written by RYO-Z and composed by DJ FUMIYA from hip-hop group Rip Slyme, and it peaked at No. 10, one of their most successful entries. It was also used as the ending theme for the final episode of a CGI anime series "Garakuta-dori no Stein"(ガラクタ通りのステイン...Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta: Mr. Stain on Junk Alley)which came out in early 2003. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video that had the final episode's end credits, but here is HALCALI's "Tandem" which served as the ending theme song for the first 13 episodes.

Without me having to drone on about the history of HALCALI, you can read about them at the Wiki article here.