Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Saturday, March 11, 2023
Back in 2017, a future funk song called Crystal Dolphin by Englewood blew up on the internet and became an overnight sensation on social media. Of course, like most Future Funk/Vaporwave remixes, the song originates from a Japanese AOR song called Machi No Dolphin (街のドルフィン), or Dolphin In Town in English. The original song was composed by Japanese crooner Kingo Hamada (濱田金吾) for his 1982 album, Midnight Cruisin'. Prior to his solo career, Hamada was among the plethora of folk artists turned Pop singers from the 70s. Originally a bassist and vocalist for the folk band Craft in 1974, he started his solo career in 1980 with the release of Manhattan in The Rain under Air Records. Midnight Cruisin' was the first album released under the newly formed Moon Records. The album features talented musicians like guitarist and fellow singer Makoto Matsushita, Pianist and producer Eiji Shinamura, bassist Shigeru Matsumoto, trumpeter Susumu Kazurara, and of course, saxophonist Jake H. Concepcion. All the music was composed by Hamada, with lyrical assistance from Kazuko Kobayashi, the prolific Chinfa Kang, and folk singer Kohei Oikawa, who was responsible for the catchy lyrics of Dolphin in Town.
- The Woman Who Came to Be Embraced (抱かれに来た女)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Profile Taxi Driver ( 横顔のタクシー・ドライバー)⭐⭐⭐⭐
- So, I Love You⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Dolphin in Town⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- A Faint Illusion(ほのかなイリュージョン)⭐⭐⭐
- Midnight Cruisin'⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- At Least, Make It Fine and Sunny (せめてからりと晴れてくれ)⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Scenery With a Shower Room (シャワールームのある風景)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Midnight Tennis Court(真夜中のテニスコート)⭐⭐⭐⭐
Usually, night-centric City Pop albums focus on the fun and nonstop action of the club scene. However, Hamada takes a more somber approach and draws more attention to the restlessness and melancholy of the wee small hours. There's a stronger emphasis on slower ballads and lounge jazz numbers; The opening track, "The Woman Who Came to be Embraced", sets the entire mood of the album just from the opening trumpet playing, and makes you feel like you're sitting in a Nighthawks-style dinner sipping on bourbon, or even an Irish Coffee. You can envision yourself on a late night drive across the Manhattan Bridge listening to "Profile Taxi Driver", another lowkey track that would fit in with any of the tracks Bob James composed for the 1978 sitcom, "Taxi", especially when you compare it with the show's theme song, "Angela". Later on, the album will dip into noir territory with sensual jazz numbers like "Shower Room Scene".
Of course, there's still room for upbeat tracks. The titular street racing song, "Midnight Cruisin'", always gets my blood pumping with its bombastic brass section. The ever-popular "Dolphin in Town" is a Latin-inspired disco beat with a simple, yet playful chorus that's fun and catchy. "At Least, Make It Fine and Sunny", switches things up with a surprisingly good reggae-pop number with more jazzy horns. It also helps that Kingo Hamada's cool, calm vocals complement each song extremely well. Whether you are someone who's restless in the middle of the night, needs the perfect background music for your late-night bar, or just wants to dance their troubles away, Midnight Cruisin' has got a song for you.
- Shinin' You, Shinin' Day ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- かげろう ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- It's Up To You ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- 視線 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Navy Blue ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Smoky ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- I've Tried ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- 空模様のかげんが悪くなる前に ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- かげろう ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Char's eponymous album is a fantastic introduction to one of Japan's premier guitar heroes. Showcasing a unique blend of jazzy, bluesy, psychedelic-funk rock reminiscent of Cream and The Sons of Chaplin, with a dash of Jimi Hendrix. Some of my favorite songs include "Shining You, Shining Day", a summary Sunshine-Pop shuffle not unlike something from Lovin' Spoonful. There's also "Kagerou", a funky jazz-rock number that features some awesome Stevie Wonder-style clavinet playing and a breezy backing chorus. The album is also littered with epic, groovy guitar solos, my favorites being in the fast-paced funk number, "Smokey", which sounds like Jeff Beck going into hyper speed, and the sorrowful countertop blues ballad, "I Tried", sang by Jerry Margosian . Speaking of which, man, did Jerry sure as heck take me to church on both of his songs. Char himself is no slouch of a singer either, showing off his soulful singing chops in both English and Japanese. Both singer's have a vocal style reminiscent of Bill Chaplin, who I'm a big fan of. If you are someone who loves 70's rock, then this is the album for you. CHAR is one of the few Japanese albums from the 70s that I would say could have hung with the best of its western counterparts.
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