I have been listening to a lot of Misora Hibari and her covers lately. Not for anything, just because a sentimental connection to the past is the one thing driving me forward these days. The present, may I put none too politely, fucking blows. Hibari's songs did much the same for her country then as they do for me now. Born the same year as my dad (1937), understandably there's nothing political, challenging or angry in anything she offers. There is gentle, loving, witty, bawdy and even dreamlike testimonies to more idyllic times. She sings and once again the world is beautiful and worth one more look. After all, I'm the working man. I am tired of hearing my country put down and shamed. There's hard times ahead and the economy is a lot more than embarassing. I just wanna turn on my radio and laugh about that meddling rickshawman.
What I want from a cover is the familiar but not the expected. UA works classic songs like classic fabrics. She cuts here, embellishes there, twists and turns all the while maintaining the integrity of the original in a way that is neither boring or predictable.
Try finding Misora's original RINGO OIWAKE りんご追分 and then I highly recommend digging up UA's version. In English, it's called "Apple and the Fork in the Road". The song was Misora's first hit at the age of fifteen. It's operatic highs and lows, typical of classical enka, sound as though she is lulling a snake to sleep. This clip of her singing it in a film I don't know the name of absolutely silences me. Misora's sounds like it came out of an old Western (hoofbeats and all). UA takes it to the beach.
Speaking of apples and nostalgia, this video of Shiina Ringo's cleverly titled "Ringo no Uta" (Apple Song) makes me smile as it literally recounts the chronological turns of her aesthetic. Ah, for those carefree pseudo-fetish days of pouty rock.
Another song I'm listening to a lot is Oborozukiyo-Inori 朧月夜~祈り (Prayer for Moonlight). This erhu-laced romantic pop version sung by the likeable Miss Mika Nakashima is pleasing to me in that this is so not a pop song. It was written in the 20's as a traditional piece to help students learn the koto and shamisen. Aiko Shimada's version sticks to more traditional threads and is intended to be a lullaby.