Livin in the Past
Here I be with another smattering of Japan guaranteed.
I love The Wiz. Me and my sis have burgeoning childhood associations with that film and the sounds that came out of it. Crappy production or no, it embodied the Big Apple on the brink of the 80's when it was an older kind of badass.
Picture the scene when they first get to the Emerald City. How staggering, how bright, how brilliant Manhattan at night. Everyone is dressed to the nine and shining like a galaxy. Minako Yoshida (美奈子吉田) belongs in that TOWN with both lips from the very first trademark riff. Does anyone use that swanky thing anymore? It screams the era out loud. Yoshida's hair alone has more soul than a very soulful thing. Later she became known for singing gospel but in this town she's covered in spangles, too much green shadow and rockin the disco like the rent depends on it.
That Umbrella song...
For my next offering, I give you the one man boy band Inoue Yosui (井上陽水). This man's been covered more times than a very covered thing. A powerhouse in his time, he was responsible for the first million-selling album in Japan. Oh, do they like him here. His song writing prowess did great things for Puffy who established a name overseas (Puffy AmiYumi). He has a profound knack for what the people wanna hear.
It was no shock to me that my first exposure to him was through a cover. I had been devouring anything by UA of late and found a most mournful blues melody titled 傘が無い or Kasa Ga Nai. (Ain't Got no Umbrella). You don't have to understand the lyrics to know you're being trodden by cold rain and contemplating doom.
UA has a graceful way of bringing you down. She sings sad songs like the French make wine, expertly. Her pain is slow, aching and sweet. Inoue's was meant for a smoky snack bar full of lost souls and old peanuts. UA's deep voice took Inoue's rainy day and gave it thunder.
Here is UA's version.
Here is Inoue's original.
Side note: Woah! When did the Eagles start releasing albums in Japanese? Nah, that's just Fukinotou (ふきのとう) with another vintage folk act from the vaults 白い冬 or "White Winter". I hear this song and immediately think of mountains not deserts.
I have oft heard my students sing a children's song designed, as children's songs are wont to do, to be ingrained.
Ken Hirai (平井堅) is gorgeous and when I close my eyes, I think I'm listening to one of those Boyz turned Men. His cover of this sad nursery standard sends me unusual vibes. It's called.
大きな古時計or Ookina Furudokei. ("Grandfather's Clock"). It's easy to sing and fun as long as you don't think of the lyrics. It recalls a boy's fond memory of the clock, from the day his grandfather was born to the day he died and it stopped running.
Children love to make the "tick tock" sound. I gotta say it takes some of the melancholy out.
Way too many downers on the field. Let's break it up, yes?
It takes a presence profound for me to enjoy Japanese males singing. Madness is one. A hectic tempo another. I recently witnessed one of my Japanese friends sing this Royal Pain in the Ass by The Unicorns (ユニコーン) who were a pretty heavy item in their day. Oh but do they split my sides! Poor Kazu was quite spent when it was over. The song is aptly titled 大迷惑 Oomeiwaku (Royal Pain in the Ass). If a Looney Tune were to manifest itself in music, it would sound something like this.
Oh man, I can't believe I haven't pushed this on you earlier. This track has worn itself out on my Ipod. If it were a CD, it'd be long past the skipping point. It's called 赤い靴は踊る or Akai Kutsu wa Odoru (Red Dancing Shoes) and it is by Sugar Mama who have been compared to another Japanese jazz fusion band, Ego Wrappin'. I can hear Aterciopelados or some other husky-voiced Colombian singing this with nary a qualm. It's quirky, sexy and like most fusion bands, not going to take you anywhere you expect. Their music is mainly a mix of jazz with some Latin and a little bit of soft rock. I like to fantasize tangos and picture myself singing this song with flowers in my hair and lips in a hue no less than 4 shades too dark.
Okay, that's enough. Tune in next month when I rant psychotic about the
Ulfuls (ウルフルズ, ) and how much I cannot say their name.