Sunday, 22 October 2017

Genshu Hanayagi and Mickie Yoshino / Godiego in 1975: Zan Sonezaki Shinju

I thought I would bring this one out after the Lucifer album that was so interesting, as another example of the lost music of Japan but so unexpectedly excellent.  The rarity of this release is quite astonishing (as seen on rym).  And you'll see the situation here is analogous to Yuji Ohno, who made such remarkably beautiful records early on but descended into generic soundtrack and schmaltz later.

Some basic information first derived, as usual, from The Great Google:

From an ebay vinyl description (note price of 180 usd):

GENSHU HANAYAGI is a Japanese female avant-garde dancer/actress/performer/author/feminist.
She has spent her life defying her conservative culture’s contempt for independence and unconventionality.
She denounced Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, and dismissed death threats made against her by right-wing groups.
MUSIC by MICKY YOSHINO GROUP (almost same members as GODIEGO).

With regards to the title of the album, it's clear that it's from a Japanese play (from 1703!) called "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki."  A great title too I'm sure you'll agree, though for a somewhat confused and more than somewhat creepy story.

So because we are concerned here with the music, let's take a closer look at composer Mickie Yoshino.

Japanese popular songwriter, arranger and keyboards player. Born December 13, 1951 in Yokohama. Started playing at US bases in Japan in 1966 with a band called Midnight Express Blues Band. Joined The Golden Cups in 1968 and was a member until 1970 (and also participated in their 2004 reunion).  Studied at Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1974. Following his return to Japan that same year, he formed the Mickie Yoshino Group, which changed its name to Godiego in 1975.  He has also composed music for film, animation, and the stage.

We always recognize Berklee (in Boston) as a fantastic source of good music for those who have studied there.  What a privilege it must be to attend that famous college!  If you follow all the above links you'll see there is tons of material on the part of Mickie and his band Godiego but only one single listed on discogs for singer / talker Genshu Hanayagi.

Now let's turn our attention to the contents of this album.  It's mostly typical soundtrack material (although this is not an OST but rather a spoken play plus music work).  But here and there are stunning flashes of brilliance showing quite clearly how much Mickie learned in his salad days just off Boylston Street.  Considering this is his first LP I would go so far as to say, what I usually do say, which is that some of the compositions sound like they were writing exercises for college, because they are so intricately well thought out.

Today we will consider the tracks 4, 6, & 12, go ahead and fast forward through the Japanese talk (if possible jump to the 3:24 mark):

Clearly this recalls the soundtrack stuff from Ohno but in some ways it's better: being more 70s fusiony and smoothly sexy, which is saying a lot, because Yuji was a formidable and prolific composer as you guys may recall.  Just listen to those synths over electric guitar and rhodes piano creating an indubitably orchestral texture, I mean I just want to die when I hear it on the headphones up loud-- especially, when he changes up the synth settings midway through the track: from super-space-traveller, to intergalactic-heaven...  I just want to die......

I could listen to that track all day, and I have, to the great annoyance of my wife and kids...
And when the headphones are on and the music is turned up, you guys all know there is no wife alive who could penetrate that acoustic wall that shuts out her talking about the million terrible things that happened to her in her day...  Oops shouldn't say those things...  what was that you were saying, hon?

Luckily you don't have to fiddle too much with the fast forward button for track 6:

Again, quite a remarkable electric guitar riff augmented with scales on the synths side by side, pushing the music higher and higher as if in a jagged and rough staircase to upper hell, threatening always to tumble you down, the chromatic dissonances making you feel slightly vertiginous and off--

Track 12 reminds me a bit of our wonderful Masabumi Kikuchi (remember him?) in his beyond brilliant Hairpin Circus, but shockingly, at the 2-minute mark, the song completely changes to a formidably offputting ostinato playing ensemble, which builds in intensity to continue into a mega-crash at the end:

Really really amazing composing.
And it's also amazing how much great music we've found, and it still keeps on coming.
God bless those musical miracle workers...



    I'll come back with some more from these guys (Mickie and Godiego) later since there is some material worth hearing, needless to say: nothing as good as this his first work

  2. Hey Julian,

    Great upload! Keep bringing Yoshino's works in the blog and all your wonderful japanese band contributions.

    Here goes a little treat. Mickie Yoshino's lost recordings from 1970. It was released this year in Japan.