Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Different Take On Puffy

Sorry I have been a little less than a blogging machine, other projects and events sidelined fun writing about Puffy. But fret not I have been jotting down notes for the next album reviews and once I start stitching them together I will post them up.

Anyways, today we have a guest blogger of sorts... my oldest daughter Ying who truly adores Puffy. So far as role models go, I could not pick out two better women in entertainment to look up to. They are humble, accomplished, funny and genuine.

I sat down with her this week and asked Ying what her favorite Puffy songs are right now. Usually she listens to whatever happens to be playing and but there are some she is more enthusiastic about than others. Today we agree on songs, tomorrow maybe not.

The first is Mother, which has consistently been her favorite to listen to since she was a really wee lass. Maybe it is the stop motion animation of the video or Ami and Yumi. This has always been on eof my favorites too.

The surprise selection was Jet Police, which she started liking after I started going through the Shibyua-AX concert footage. Normally she leans towards Yumi in all things Puffy, but this particular rendition of Jet Police she flips for Ami.

Lastly is Tokyo I'm On My Way... which she has been crazy about... Particularly the Tour 10 Final concert verison, or as she puts it Tokyo I'm On My Way with the pink and blue dress. She is particularly impressed with Yumi's attire.

An unexpected joy from listening to Puffy is that their music and videos are something my daughter and I can enjoy together. When I hear her make a request for a specific song or get irked I hit next to bypass a song she likes, it makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Places Puffy Led Me To

Puffy by themselves… soak up more time than I care to admit. When I sit down to listen to music it is good odds I will be listening to them. But Puffy is certainly not the only band I listen to regularly, but Puffy has afforded me the chance to discover more about a genre of music that I have come to greatly appreciate.... to the point of blogging about them and promoting them as serious artists.

Yet this article is not really about music I enjoy. Rather this is how I detoured into foolishness trying to find music inspired by my enjoyment of Puffy.

Not long after I discovered Puffy, I was combing YouTube and stumbled across a video for the song Harada Kinenbi, a multi-artist promotional effort for Sony’s Hit-n-Run label.
Speaking in generalities, I tend to hate group efforts, because they simply never seem to work. Harada Kinembi had been done the year before by Sony’s stable of stars and it was a complete train wreck of hack and pomposity… like We Are The World. The superb Lionel Ritchie could not have saved this one either.

What surprised me and tossed my musical sensibilities on their ear was that the 99 version of Harada Kinembi was dynamite! It is very well arranged and had a more humorous and playful undertone. It had a feeling that Sony’s talent was not shunted into a room and forced to kick out a song or be starved to death.

At this time my musical leanings were only beginning to shift to the east and while I was familiar with some of the artists in Harada Kinenbi, but there were many I knew nothing about that upon this first impression I knew I might like. I had to learn more about them.. One was the band The Wonder Soul Style, which is another blog... The other was a woman with dyed red hair and a stellar voice that merged beautifully with Ami and Yumi’s for a chorus. Google did not offer any pointers and I needed help.

As luck would have it, one thing I am not short of in life is associates who are fluent Japanese speakers. One e-mail to Dr. Doug and my question was answered. The singer in question was Izumi Tachibana. I had a name and I put Google went to work.

This is where I started to become grossly stupid.

Google tripped up Izumi Tachibana’s old website which redirected me to her new website. She had since married and changed her name. The site had a modest amount of information in English, but not enough to be useful. So I went to the Google well again…

One small problem however. I misread her new surname as Sakai and not Sakaki.

This one tiny mistake snowballed. There was a very well known Japanese singer named Izumi Sakai. Her back catalog had a number of albums that after mangled translations had very similar titles. As it turns out many Japanese artists have greatest hits albums with the moniker “Golden Best.” Izumi Sakai also had a very complete Wikipedia entry, which let me to what I thought was an unfortunite end.

Izumi Sakai passed away in 2007. While taking an early morning walk as a respite from chemotherapy treatments, Sakai suffered a head trauma after falling from an ambulance platform. Sakai had previously fought uterine cancer, but that had spread to her lungs. While Sakai’s doctors were encouraged with her treatments, due to this illness she had been on a hiatus. This chronologically corresponded with the hiatus that the singer who was really Izumi Sakaki. I closed the book on this line of investigation.

Fast forward a few months.

Something was not right. I intuitively knew I was wrong about all of this and it simmered in the back of my mind. One morning these thoughts boiled over and I went back and started looking into Izumi Tachibana again. It hit me that while there were parallels in these two performers… I had misinterpreted something.

An hour later, I put my hands were on my head. I had been wrong and I knew why: I had been intellectually lazy. I only looked at the things that were similar between these Izumis, not what was different.

What unraveled my patchwork research was that Izumi Sakai was the best selling female artist is Japan during the 1990’s and to this day Sakai remains one of the top five best selling female artist in Japan. Sakai was also eponymous with the Japanese band Zard, whom she was the only permanent member. Izumi Sakai only appeared on TV seven times. She was painfully shy, yet by all accounts kind and down to earth. Despite being wildly popular, she never received a single award for her work.

It is one thing to discover an artist and learn about them posthumously. It is another to discover them and grow with them. Together moving forward with their songs and forming a soundtrack for our life. I very much feel this about Puffy.

Yet this revelation is not completely sad. Izumi Sakaki (formerly Tachibana) is alive and well. Like The Wonder Soul Style she is no longer with Sony. While Izumi Sakaki went down a different path than the more famous artists who sang Harada Kinenbi she continues as working artist and has a good sized back catalog of her own.

The end result of all this is neither Izumi Sakai nor Izumi Sakaki appeal to my Japanese rock sensibilities. This was a lot of hard work for something that did not work out. That happens. Likewise I have found incredible artists like Puffy via effortless accident.

Without Puffy I also would not have found many artists that I also enjoy.

P.S. The Wonder Soul Style… they are my J-Rock Waterloo. I have liked everything I have heard from them. Which is precious little beyond Midbooster and Harada Kinembi… so if you know any more about them. Please get a hold of me.