Akina Nakamori – Fushigi (1986)

After a month laying low due to restrictions on some platforms, we’re back! You probably are seeing some reposts and more will come along the way, these are actually all-time bests of the ‘IM’ so don’t miss it, ok? Moving along our Top 5 entries since 2014, having Akiko’s and Slađana’s posts already listed, its time for our third entry, and it is a very singular one; a brief but dashing turning point that was not well comprehended by its main audience ergo the (almost) failure of the sales and single-digit weeks at the radio-charts.

Debuting on the production control, with only 21 years old, rising as the artist of the year and a complex idea in terms of sound, 不思議 remains one of the greatest albums of an era by an underestimated singer, performer, and actress. We’ll be only commencing on Akina’s bio, so please attend to the rest on future entries, though today’s are the REAL deal for us.

楽しんでください!

Let’s go to our artist:

Early Idol Years

Nakamori Akina (中森明菜), born July 13, 1965, in Kiyose, Tokyo, Japan, is a multiple award-winning Japanese pop singer and actress who debuted in early 1982. She is the face of the idol era of the 80s alongside Seiko Matsuda (her supposed rival) with hits such as the extraordinary “Kazari Janai No Yo Namida Wa” and world-wide hit “Desire”.

As a singer, Nakamori came to be known for her mature yet rebellious style and powerhouse vocals, but also for her ever-changing image both visually and musically as opposed to the (very) conservative J-Pop scene. She is also known as “tragedy queen” for most of her serious or sad tone songs unlike the happy and carefree sound of pop music.

Desire ‘Frenzy’

She was highly successful from her debut to 1989 when she attempted suicide after a failed romance with Masahiko Kondo, with the scandalous involvement of Seiko Matsuda as the third part and mostly to stress induced by the tabloid media. Even though she has never regained the same success, she has still managed to carry on a steady career.

Today Nakamori has built her image more like a cover artist with her Utahime cover albums, also with the award-winning Enka one and recently a comeback with unedited studio material being Fixer (2015) and Cage (2017) her last cover one. With a career almost as long as 30 years, and millions of records sold she has explored many different music genres including pop, rock, R&B, jazz, folk, blues, enka, and Latin music. (!)

Let’s go to our album:

Pioneer Private 1989

In 1986, at 21, Nakamori matured in her singing style, choice of songs and partnership over its musical arrangements. The first single of that year, “Desire (Jōnetsu)” proved to be one of the highlights in Nakamori’s career, this was awarded at the Record Taisho Grand Prize at the 28th Japan Record Awards, her second in a row, in an unprecedented achievement at the time, stating Akina’s as the #1 artist of Japan that year. (!)

Then she released Fushigi, an experimental album that is considered to be one of her most artistic works ever. Inspired by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, this conceptual album differed from her previous works with a more mysterious and eerie sound both music and vocal-wise. On the album, Nakamori sang more dramatically and her vocals were also mixed into the background. This unusual mixing caused some confusion among consumers and some actually contacted the retailers thinking the record was defective.

Fushigi Promo

Despite the riskiness of trying something so avant-garde the album still reached #1 and sold over 464,000 copies. By the cover, you can tell something is darkling about everything and sure there is! After hearing it for the first time, I was sure there was something wrong with the files and had to download them again and again until I realize how magnificent the proposition was. The dark and gothic beauty of the entire project oddly caught me and how good it is to be able to feel this. Now the ‘IM’ is proudly presenting this to you all, come check this unique experience and also watch some terrific live renditions between 1986, 1987 and 2003, it is a joy to see her perform!

The ‘IM’ highlights are マリオネット (Marionette) and Teen-Age Blue.

Tracks Include:

A1 Back Door Night

A2 ニュー·ジェネレーション (New Generation)

Lyrics By: 竹花いち子

A3 Labyrinth

Chorus: Katsumi Fujikura

A4 マリオネット (Marionette)

Lyrics By, Music By: 安岡孝章

A5 幻惑されて (Genwaku Sarete)

Chorus: Minako Yoshida

B1 ガラスの心 (Glass No Kokoro)

Arranged By: 井上鑑

Bass: Chiharu Mikuzuki

Drums: Hideo Yamaki

Guitar: Tsuyoshi Kon

Keyboards: Akira Inoue

B2 Teen-Age Blue

Chorus: Etsuko Yamakawa, Kiyoshi Hiyama

Keyboards: Satoshi Nakamura

Keyboards, Chorus: Kazuo Shiina

B3 燠火 (Okibi)

Arranged By (Brass): 椎名和夫

Drums: Anton Fier

Keyboards: Haruo Togashi, Minako Yoshida

Saxophone: Jake H. Concepcion

B4 Wait For Me

Lyrics By: Show

B5 Mushroom Dance

Chorus: Keiko Aso

Music By: 井上ケン一

Musicians

Arranged By: Eurox (tracks: A1 to A5, B4, B5), Kazuo Shiina (tracks: B2, B3)

Bass: Haruo Okano (tracks: A1 to A5, B4, B5)

Chorus: Anri Sekine, Eve, Haruo Okano, Isamu Hasegawa, Yoshimi Niikura

Guitar: Tsutomu Kurihara (tracks: A1 to A5, B4, B5)

Keyboards: Anri Sekine (tracks: A1 to A5, B4, B5)

Lyrics By: 麻生圭子 (tracks: A1, A3), 吉田美奈子 (tracks: A5, B2, B3),

Sandii (tracks: B1, B5)

Music By: Eurox (tracks: A1 to A3, A5), 久保田真箏 (tracks: B1, B5),

吉田美奈子 (tracks: B2, B3)

Trumpet: Shin Kuzuhara (tracks: B3, B4)

Violin: Anri Sekine (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B4)

Credits

Design (Cover): Yasuo Mochida

Directed By: Katsumi Fujikura

Engineer: Hiroyuki Satoh, Motonari Matsumoto, Yasu Itohbrass, Mr. Kenmochi

Photography By: Kazunori Tsukada

Producer: Akina Nakamori

Remix, Mastered By: Nobuo Ishizaki

Management: Fusanori Nakoh, Hiroyasu Chinone

Companies

Phonographic Copyright: Warner-Pioneer Corporation

Made By: Warner-Pioneer Corporation

Recorded At: Sedic Studio, Sound Inn Studio, Freedom Studio, Sound Atelier,

Cherry Island Studio and Music Inn Studio

Mixed At: Sedic Studio and Warner-Pioneer Studio

Mastered At: Warner-Pioneer Studio

Reprise Records ‎– L-12595 – 1986.08.11

Cage’s Persona – 2017

Yoshiko Sai – Mikkō (1976) [Repost]

Due to the great success of Yoshiko Sai’s first entry, simply the most viewed during this year, today we present another album of this incredible haunting artist!

Let’s go to our history:

Edo (modern Tokyo) became the seat of government for the military dictatorship in the early 17th century Japan, the so-called Edo period (1603–1867). With an ‘everlasting’ peace and prosperity, the merchant class at the bottom of the social order found themselves the greatest beneficiaries of the city’s rapid economic growth. Other classes were the samurai and the craftsmen. Many indulged in the entertainment of kabuki theatre, courtesans, and geisha of the pleasure districts.

The term Ukiyo (floating world) came to describe this hedonistic lifestyle. Printed or painted ukiyo-e images of this environment emerged in the late 17th century, the merchant class, who had become wealthy enough to afford to decorate their homes with such brilliant works. Depictions of beautiful women, kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica were amongst the popular themes. (!)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1844
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1844

The peak period in terms of quantity and quality was marked by portraits of beauties and actors by masters such as Kiyonaga, Utamaro, and Sharaku in the late 18th century. This peak was followed in the 19th century by a pair of masters best remembered for their landscapes: Hokusai and Hiroshige. Following the deaths of these two, and against the technological and social modernization that followed the Meiji Restoration of 1868, ukiyo-e production went into steep decline.

Some ukiyo-e artists specialized in making paintings, but most works were prints. Artists rarely carved their own woodblocks for printing; rather, production was divided between the artist, who designed the prints; the carver, who cut the woodblocks; the printer, who inked and pressed the woodblocks onto hand-made paper; and the publisher, who financed, promoted, and distributed the works.

Hokusai, 1830-32
Hokusai, 1830-32

Japonisme, or Japonism, is a French term that was first used (theorized) by Jules Claretie in his book L’Art Francais in 1872, it refers to the influence of Japanese art on Western art. In 1854, Japan re-opened trade with the West (after 265 years of isolation) and Japanese artworks including fans, porcelains, woodcuts, and screens were introduced in huge numbers to Europe, mainly France and the Netherlands.

The 1862 World’s Fair in Europe brought even more attention to Japanese art, during the 1860’s ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, became very popular and were a source of inspiration to many impressionists and post-impressionist artists in the west including Monet, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. (!)

Utamaro, 1793
Utamaro, 1793

Let’s go to our album:

Released on July 25th, 1976, Mikkō was Sai Yoshiko’s second album, a wonderful acid-folk register on which she gets assisted by a string of big-name musicians such as Kuni Kawachi on arrangements. At times the disc draws in Indian influences (sitar and tabla), but once she gets to singing, the listener is lulled into her own private, mysterious sonic world, through which one gets sucked in by her wide-ranging vocalizations. At the time of this recording, she was merely 23 years old.

This is a quieter, entrained album, compared to Taiji No Yume, with less variety of styles, making a melodic somber entry. I really would like to know more details about the lyrics, will any Japanese friend could help us? This is such a stunner voyage of consciousness, welcome to the unique realms of Yoshiko Sai, be ready!

1977's Promo
1977’s Promo

The ‘IM’ highlights are Tenshi no Yōni and Mikkō.

Bonum Cursum!

Tracks Include:

A1 Theme ~ 母さまのうた (Theme ~ Kāsama no Uta)

A2 鏡地獄 (Kagami Jigoku)

A3 (Haru)

A4 絹之道 (Kinu no Michi)

B1 人のいない島 (Hito no Inai Shima)

B2 眠りのくに (Nemuri no Kuni)

B3 天使のように (Tenshi no Yōni)

B4 漂流船 (Hyōryūsen)

B5 密航 (Mikkō)

Translations, respectively:

Theme – Mother’s Song, Hell of Mirrors, Spring, Silk Road, Desert Island

Land of Sleep, Like an Angel, Ship Adrift and Stowing Away

Credits

  • Acoustic Guitar: 吉川忠英, 野間義男
  • Cello: 阿部雅士
  • Drums: 山下秀夫, 田中清司, 武田光司
  • Dulcimer: 生見慶二
  • Electric Bass: 江藤勲, 高水建司
  • Electric Guitar: 高中正義, 津村泰彦
  • Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Sitar (E. Sitar): 矢島賢
  • Flute: 中川昌三
  • Piano, Keyboards: 大谷和夫, 松岡直也
  • Strings: 新音楽協会
  • Tabla: 瀬上養之助
  • Vibraphone: クニ河内
  • Arranged: クニ河内 (Kuni Kawashi)
  • Lyrics, Music: 佐井好子 (Yoshiko Sai)
  • Engineer伊豫部富治
  • IllustrationYoshiko Sai
  • Design (Cover Design) – Teichiku Design Section
  • Directed: 春名勇

Companies

  • Made: Teichiku Records Co., Ltd.
  • Recorded: Sound Creation Studio
  • Mixed: AMS Studio

Recorded at Teichiku No.1 Studio and Sound Creation Studio.

Mixdown at AMS Studio from March to May 1976.

Black ‎– BAL-1018

Yoshiko’s Painting Cover Art

Yoshiko Sai – Taiji No Yume (1977) [Repost]

Born on June 22, 1953, at Nara prefecture, Yoshiko Sai since his childhood demonstrated its precocity and many artistic gifts. During her elementary school days, she loved to paint and read all the classics from mythical writer Edogawa Rampo (The Japanese Poe). In junior high school, she was a member of the coral, taking his first lessons in music; by high school, she played (casually) in a folk-rock group.

In 1972 she tried to enter the Kyoto City University of Arts but wasn’t accepted, then she tried the Kyoto Doshisha University where she passed the entrance examination. In May of that year, she was caught by kidney disease, having to spend a year in observation.

Portrait
Portrait

Over this period she would recall:

‘I read a LOT of books from famous novelists, such as Mushitaro Oguri, Yumeno Kyusaku, Juran Hisao, and Yokomizo Masashi. These dark novels made me accept and relax about the disease, my forthcoming production of lyrics and music was strongly tied with this fact.’

After leaving the hospital, she incessantly started to wrote poetry and in 1974 debuted and won a contest at a local radio program. She then received an invitation to play an opening act for Rabi Nakayama concert. Two record companies became interested in her music and after the show, she was contracted by Teichiku Records.

1978 Promo
1978 Promo

Yoshiko Sai recorded four albums in four years, between May 1975 and December 1978, the 2nd (Mikkō) and 3rd (Taiji No Yume) of her releases may be considered more Progressive than Folk. Unfortunately, she abruptly retired from a career at the age of 25 in 1979.

A story told is that Yoshiko may have doubted her talent in music and lost her self-confidence. In recent years, a revival of interest in his music made her come back to record a new album with Jojo Hiroshige, called Crimson Voyage in 2001. Lastly, there’s been some re-releases from its 70s records, unedited live performances and poetry books.

Let’s go to our album:

In 1977 she moved to the Nippon Columbia company, and on September 25, she announced Taiji No Yume (Fetus Dream). Heavily inspired by the pre-war oddball and ghostly neurosurgeon doctor and writer Yumeno Kyusaku, hence the strange atmosphere this disc abides in. Quite dark in the overall texture, at the time of this she was merely 24 years old. Totally unknown for non-japanese listeners, this album is really a must for people into some more advanced Japanese historical recordings.

Melancholic Breeze
Melancholic Breeze

With utterly beautiful arrangements by the legendary Yuji Ohno, this is certainly my favorite album from her. A kaleidoscope of genres that spring from the depths of the inner mind: folk, jazz, bossa nova, flamenco, prog, rock and so. Yoshiko Sai plays the role of each and invites us to another dimension of reality, the “IM’ highlights are for:

Aoi Glass-Dama, with nice synths and strings, this rock ballad has an interesting crescendo, delivering an amazing emotional interpretation. And Taiji No Yume, a 9-minute epic, simply one of the best Japanese songs of all time, without exaggeration, I’ll let the words and adjectives to you, do not miss Yoshiko Sai’s haunting realms. 良い旅!

Tracks Include:

A1 ヒターノ (Gitano)

A2 アルハンブラの青い壜 (Alhambra No Aoi Bin)

A3 ある晴れた夜 (Aru Hareta Yoru)

A4 波止場 (Hatoba)

A5 春の夢 (Haru No Yume)

A6 海の沈黙 (Umi No Chinmoku)

B1 青いガラス玉 (Aoi Garasudama)

B2 遍路 (Henro)

B3 白昼夢 (Hakuchūmu)

B4 胎児の夢 (Taiji No Yume)

All songs and lyrics by Yoshiko Sai

Blow Up LX-7021A /// 25/09/1977

Musicians

Drums: Yasushi Ichihara

Electric & Acoustic Guitar: Tsunehide Matsuki

Gut Guitar: Kiyoshi Sugimoto

Electric Bass: Kenji Takamizu (1,2,4,5,9,10) /// Akira Okazawa (3,6,7,8)

Acoustic Piano: Masahiko Sato

Electric Piano, Solina, Spinet & Synthesizer: Yuji Ohno

Percussion: Lary Sunaga

Arranged (strings, brass, instrumental) by Yuji Ohno

Credits

Directed by: Shun Ohki

Produced by: Akira Sakajima

Engineer: Tomiji Iyobe

Art Director: Kazuhiro Saito

Cover Illustration: Yoshiko Sai

Illustration: Tsuyoshi Takigaito

Photography by: Jin Komine

Layout: Takashi Eakabayashi

Taiji No Yume Illustration
Taiji No Yume Illustration

Halina Frąckowiak ‎– Geira (1977)

Halina has already appeared here on a 2014 post about multiple female artists, but today she deserves a full entry, another Pole legend to grace us with all her talent!

Let’s go to our artist:

Halina Maria Frąckowiak (born April 10, 1947, in Poznań) is a Polish pop/rock singer, composer, and songwriter. She debuted in 1963 at the Young Talents Festival in Szczecin, where she competed with future polish legends such as Czesław Niemen, Zdzisława Sośnicka and Krzysztof Klenczon, and became the winner of the so-called “Golden Ten”.

Then she won further awards at song festivals in Opole and in Kołobrzeg in the years 1969, 1976, 1977, 1988, 1991 and 1993 (!). Working with such bands as Czerwono-Czarni, ABC Group, Tarpany, they launched a plethora of hits throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Halina & Grupa ABC – 1972

In 1972 Halina outset in a solo career, it was then that she won the plebiscite for the most popular singer, several times took part in foreign festivals (Ostend, Rostock, Dresden), where she received the most important awards, including “Golden Microphone” of the Polish-American Artistic Agency. Halina has recorded over 20 discs and cassettes, and her concerts have been seen in many places in Europe as well as in the US and Canada. She performed, at the Musical Theater in Gdynia, the Grand Theater in Łódź and Warsaw.

Halina’s 1977 Grace

The album Ogród Luizy (Luisa’s Garden) from 1981 was created as a result of Halina Frąckowiak’s fascination with the poetry of Kazimierz Wierzyński, this is the effect of the gradual change of the singer’s repertoire to a more serious and lyrical one conception since its debut with the renowned Idę in 1974. The last decade only saw re-releases of her past records and many live presentations until today, its last record is from 2006.

Let’s go to our album:

Let us present you Halina’s second (and better) entry, a fantastic collaboration between the singer and the almighty prog-trio SBB, here in a way that some fans might not know:

Zespół SBB – Made In Poland

“The three musicians that revolutionized Polish rock” or “Beyond doubt the most prominent representatives of progressive rock in Poland” with these credentials it’s easy to drool out with this magnificent record. The trio changed their groove in some nice ways for the album, mostly known for their long-form, fusion-styled jams, here, they compact that energy into shorter, tighter songs that often have a funky rock style or ambient jazz-pop that draws equally from the vocals in the lead, and from the keyboards of Jozef Skrzek!

Believe me, you don’t want to miss this one…

The ‘IM’ highlights are Wzejdę Polnym Makiem and Śnij Tylko Szczęście.

Tracks Include:

A1 Jesteś Spóźnionym Deszczem
A2 Myśli Twoje Śnić Zaczynam
A3 Wzejdę Polnym Makiem
A4 Otwieram List – Brązowy Wrzesień
A5 W Powszednie Dni
B1 Śnij Tylko Szczęście
B2 Pieśń Geiry
B3 Chcę Być Dla Ciebie
B4 Brzegi Łagodne

Credits
Featuring: Zespół SBB

Backing Vocals: Alibabki
Lyrics By: J. Matej
Music By: J. Skrzek

Design – Rafał Jasionowicz
Engineer: J. Złotkowski, M. Gola
Photography By: Marek Karewicz

Companies
Record Company: Polskie Nagrania
Printed By: Łódzka Drukarnia Akcydensowa

Polskie Nagrania Muza ‎– SX 1428

Presently

Alpha Beta – Astral Abuse (1971)

7″ / 45 RPM

Today’s presentation is an obscure record released without the alias that made him a worldwide famous composer, producer, and musician: Vangelis.

Let’s go to our artist:

Born in Volos, Greece on the 29th of March 1943 Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou (Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου) was a self-taught prodigy who avoided most formal piano lessons. Apparently, a gifted painter as a child his schooling was based on a formidable memory that enabled him to learn by intuition rather than by rote.

In the ‘60s he was part of the popular groups The Forminx and Aphrodite’s Child who hit big with “Rain and Tears” and the double album 666, selling more than 1 million copies over the four years of the band’s duration of rising stardom in Europe and US!

A Beardless Vangelis in 1965

A significant figure during turbulent times in Greece Vangelis began his score work in 1970 and then released his first proper solo disc – Earth – in 1973. After moving to London Vangelis’ distinctive electronic album work took off, acclaimed scores for movies like Chariots of Fire, Conquest of Paradise, Blade Runner, Alexander, and many many more remain perennial best sellers and feature in the American Film Institute’s list of greatest scores of all time(!). He is considered a titan in the electronic field releasing more than 50 albums in a career spanning the period from the 1960s when he was in bands in his native Greece to the present day. A deeply private and guarded individual who rarely grants the press entry into his world Vangelis explains himself best when he says:

“Mythology, science, and space exploration are subjects that have fascinated me since my early childhood. And they were always connected somehow with the music I write.”

Aphrodite’s Child

In 1975 Vangelis looked back:

“I like the whole spectrum of music. Jazz, pop, rock, the classics. I have no taboos, any kind of music is great, so long as it is honest. So I’m glad to help any artist whom I like. You see, I don’t regard myself primarily as a producer. It’s just that I have so many ideas, I can’t put them all on my own records. Production allows me more flexibility, more outlets. I was a prisoner of Aphrodite’s Child for three years, in the end, I was desperate. I was forced into the position of turning out music that didn’t interest me because of our own success. When I first went to Paris, I had lots of ideas that I wanted the group to be. But I realized that, as a new and foreign act, we had to create confidence in ourselves from the record company. And that confidence comes only from proving that you can earn money for them. What I didn’t realize is, that has created a precedent, it’s very difficult to diverge from it. It takes years to change your product. I have no regrets about that period, but it did waste a lot of time.

Synth Genius

Let’s go to our album:

Alpha Beta is probably it’s less known work to date, released on the legendary BYG Records label and distributed by Discodis in France back in 1971, this 7” presents a wild experimentation vibe with haunting vocals, paced percussion, lots of keyboards floating around the psychedelic guitar-synth driven session in a far off trip… απολαμβάνω!

Tracks Include:

A Astral Abuse
Written By: Koulouris, Papathanassiou, Vilma

B Who Killed?
Written By: Papathanassiou, Gomelsky

Credits

Guitar: Argiris Koulouris
Performer: Evangelos Papathanassiou
Vocals: Vilma Lado

Illustration: Evangelos Papathanassiou

Today