Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat And Bossa Nova 1967-69 on 180g LP
Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat And Bossa Nova 1967-69 is a fascinating celebration of the female side of Japan's 1960s pop scene. The LP features a dozen highlights from the CD of the same title issued on the Big Beat International imprint a few years back - one of their best sellers. Compiled and annotated by DJ Sheila Burgel, a former Tokyo resident, the Nippon Girls CD raised a few eyebrows at the time, but girl pop maven Sheila knew what she was doing. The collection drew rave reviews across the board, becoming something of a left-field hit among the club crowd and young mod hipster types.
Sheila also supplied the fascinating and scholarly liner notes, from which we learn that bikini-clad cover girl Jun Mayuzumi’s "Black Room" boasts booming bass lines and a dancefloor readiness that’s already caught the ear of freakbeat collectors, while Mie Nakao’s fuzz-rocker "Sharock No. 1" takes "Green Onions" as its template. "Tsukikage No Rendezvous" by Keiko Mari is a tamer affair, with Latin rhythms and cute banter between Mari and her all-male chorus.
J Girls were sisters Shinobu and Jun Hazuki. Their "Kiiro No Sekai" was recorded in 1969 but remained under wraps until 1995’s Cutie Pops Collection. Reiko Ohara’s "Peacock Baby" was released in 1968 and came in a mouth-watering gatefold sleeve. Mieko Hirota was a music heavyweight, close to Dusty Springfield in the ability to inspire awe with her voice. In the mid-60s, she was paired up with Kyohei Tsutsumi, one of Japan’s greatest pop writer/producers. His love of Anglo-American records is clearly audible on "Nagisa No Tenshi," its backing track not very subtly swiped from "Cool Jerk.”
The second side makes for an equally compelling listen. Opener "Rumi Koyama" was a go-go dancer for TV show Beat Pops. Her debut single is rather square, but its jazzy flip "Watashi No Inori" is just the right amount of raw and teenage. A year after the Carnabeats hit paydirt with a reading of the Zombies’ "I Love You," re-titled "Suki Sa Suki Sa Suki Sa," Nana Kinomi included the same song on her album Let’s Go Nana! with GS band Leo Beats. You can hear half-American, half-Japanese model Miki Obata struggle to hit the high notes on "Hatsu Koi No Letter," but it’s considered a Japanese girl-pop staple.
Ryoko Moriyama’s "Ame Agari No Samba" attests to the high quality of Japanese bossa nova – as laidback and atmospheric as the Brazilian originals it emulated. Former figure skater Ayumi Ishida’s "Taiyou Wa Naite Iru" is total melodrama, a whirlwind of harpsichord and strings. The star of over a hundred films, Sayuri Yoshinaga appealed to the Japanese mainstream with her modest image and ability to leave audiences in floods of tears. Her "Koi No Yorokobi" is the perfect Japanese girl-pop primer – dark yet upbeat, with all-girl chorus the Schoolmates chirping in the background.”
Highly recommended to girl group fanciers, J Pop groovers and anyone else with a keen ear for eclectic sounds, the LP sports a fresh new cover (plus gatefold sleeve) featuring a bikini-clad Jun Mayuzumi designed by graphic artist Niall McCormack, who also created the 23-inch square poster found tucked inside.
Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat And Bossa Nova 1967-69 Track Listing:
1. Black Room - Jun Mayuzumi
2. Sharock No. 1 - Mie Nakao
3. Tsukikage No Rendezvous - Keiko Mari
4. Kiiro No Sekai - J Girls
5. Peacock Baby - Reiko Ohara
6. Nagisa No Tenshi - Mieko Hirota
7. Watashi No Inori - Rumi Koyama
8. Suki Sa Suki Sa Suki Sa - Nana Kinomi And Leo Beats
9. Hatsu Koi No Letter - Miki Obata
10. Ame Agari No Samba - Ryoko Moriyama
11. Taiyou Wa Naite Iru - Ayumi Ishida
12. Koi No Yorokobi - Sayuri Yoshinaga With Schoolmates