Blast From the Past: Misfits of Sciences

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Happy April, Readers! Hope that the weather is getting warmer where you are at! Certainly, it has been beautiful here in central Japan. Since I had several days off from work due the end of the school year, I passed the time by enjoying the spring weather, watching cherry blossoms spring to life beside my apartment’s window, writing, and also watching obscure 80s’ American TV shows like The Charmings, Starman, Out of This World, and others.  (All thanks to Wikipedia and Youtube!)

I have never really heard of Misfits of Science before I stumble on a Youtube video that showcased theme songs from “bizarre” 80s’ shows. As someone who was born a few years after the premiere, all I know about the show is that Courtney Cox starred in it, who would later star in the 90s’ staple TV show Friends, a very cute Dean Paul Martin, and it sort-of piggybacks on the success of Ghostbusters as both share a mutual theme of “weird science”. You could also say that “Misfits” is the distant cousin of Fantastic Four or even X-Men when you think about “beings” having strange superpowers.

For those who don’t remember this lost 80s’ show, “Misfit” premiered in the fall of 1985 on NBC. It only ran for sixteen episodes as it was canceled due to low ratings. It wasn’t the show’s fault though, it was competing against the mega-successful, ratings dominant Dallas during the same time slot.

Why am I writing about a TV show on a music blog? Am I forgetting my bearings? Let me talk about the theme song because sometimes the songs themselves are worthy to talk about.

The theme song for Misfits of Science was composed by Basil Poledouris, a Greek-American composer who created music for various TV shows and movies like Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, and Free Willy. He also wrote music for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the theme’s performer is singer-songwriter Karen Lawrence. Since the 70s, Lawrence has been featured as the lead singer for L.A. Jets, 1994, Karen Lawrence and the Pinz, and Blue by Nature while singing back vocals for Aerosmith and Jeff Beck. She released her only album, entitled Rip and Tear, in 1986 under the label Revolver.

The theme song is entirely an HI-NRG rock tune. There are some spots where the song slows down, especially at the pre-chorus where the BPM clocks in the lower 200s, compared to the verses’ BPM of around 225. But, it isn’t solely about the BPM that defines its sound. You can hear it in the instrumentation. The composer used a combination of electric guitars, electronic keyboards, bell-like sounds, a drum kit, and a synthesizer. I feel like this song could be in the minor key to give it an edgy sound, but I could be mistaken.

I think the aspect I love about this song is the upbeat tempo, the edginess, and the “weirdness” factor that goes between the pre-chorus and chorus. You can hear it between 3:24 – 3:28 where a dissonant chord resolves into a consonant one, maybe into a half-cadence. The “weird” key, rock structure works perfectly for the show as the theme is “weird science”. But, the chorus adds a nice touch to the song as it changes directions and tries to resolve the song’s rock, edgy tension with a positive and relaxed melody.

Lastly, I think Karen Lawrence’s vocals are a perfect fit for this as her tone has that edgy, hard-rock tone to it that brings a balance to the song.

It is a shame that Misfits of Science only lasted half a season as the theme song is splendid. I might be biased as others have labeled this show as “awful” but I love this theme song.  It reflects a perfect combination of vocals and instrumentation in the vein of the edgy, HI-NRG hard rock that was found prominent in the mid-80s. You can listen below and tell me what you think! 😀

 

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Elton John “Wraps Her Up” with George Michael

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Happy New Years everyone! We finally made it to 2017! 2016 seemed like a long year as we had a series of unfortunate events: Trump being elected as President, the end of SMAP, Brexit, and many celebrities passing on. One of these beloved stars that we lost in 2016 was George Michael.

Many remember Micheal for his catchy tunes during his days in Wham! or his ironic, musical statements during the late 80s and early 90s as a solo artist. But today, I want to talk about the amazing work he did behind the scenes, being a backup singer for many of our favorite artists during the 80s and beyond.

One amazing piece that featured George Michael was Elton John’s 1985 song “Wrap Her Up”. This song was sort of popular in the US. But, more so over in the UK, reaching #20 on the UK Charts. It has since fallen out of obscurity over the years. I actually found out about this song two days before Michael’s death when I  was recovering from eye surgery. I couldn’t do anything but listen to Sirius XM 80’s on 8 and their weekly Top 40 Countdown, which featured “Wrap Her Up”.

According to Wikipedia and Sirius XM 80s on 8’s Top 40 Countdown that aired last week, George Michael was quoted in a magazine that the song made him sound like he “had my [his] willy in a garotte”.[1] Now I don’t know if Michael was really impressed with the vocals he provided for the song or not. But, in my opinion, they aren’t THAT bad. The call and response between Michael and Elton John are really well executed as the two singers’ diverse approaches really compliments the song.

Now I know this is a pop-rock song. However, I swear the bass is playing a funk-like rhythm. I also swear that you could hear the same bass melody in a Go West song. Anyways, the song is pretty basic if you take away the bass and the vocals. The only other instrumentation is the strong horns section, which has a really great solo section before the lackluster guitar break.

“Wrap Her Up” isn’t a memorable song like “Last Christmas” or any other songs in Elton John’s or George Michael’s discographies. However, it does have some good points and it’s worth a listen.

Celebrate the Holidays with “Leprechaun Christmas”

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A Late Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

It’s already the end of the year. The last time I wrote something here was in September. I had to take a break from writing as I was super busy with the Christmas play at work and studying really hard for a Japanese language test. I also had cataract surgery recently and have been recovering from that. Now that my eyes are feeling better and everything is winding down, I am hoping to pick up writing on this blog again.

I have written about the 80s’ band TM Network before. They are one of my favorite Japanese bands as they were able to do any genre successfully (and had really great songs too). And also, my favorite producer of all time, Tetsuya Komuro, was in it.

Here is what I wrote about TM Network about a year ago:

TM Network is a well-known band in Japan that has been around for about 30 years. It was formed in 1983 when the band that Tetsuya Komuro, Naoto Kine, and Takashi Utsunomiya were in, Speedway, split up. The guys came together and entered their new band, TM NETWORK, in a YAMAHA contest, performing the song “1974”. TM Network received perfect scores from the judges and won the grand prize, which caught the attention of Epic Records who offered the band a contract right away. TM Network made their debut in the spring of 1984 with the single “Kinyoubi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)” and album “RAINBOW RAINBOW”.

Over the years, TM Network has made a lot of genre changes. On various information sites like Wikipedia and etc, the band is listed as a pop-rock band with the pop side being more relevantly in their music. The band’s first couple of singles featured a sound that was akin to the Yellow Magic Orchestra’s technopop bliss, prominently “”Kinyoubi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)” and “1974”. Over the years, they got their toes wet by dipping into new genres like R&B, funk, trance, techno, latin, hard rock (thanks to B’z guitarist Tak Matsumoto), ballad rock, eurobeat, dance, and others. Most recently, the band has been riding the electropop wave, especially since Komuro is a lover of current dance trends (he has been on this “dance music” craze since 90s though, see all the stuff he has composed during that time).

Their Christmas love song “Leprechaun Christmas” from the 1987 album humansystem is a sample of TM Network’s electronic folk rock sound. By the time of the song’s release, Kine started to play more acoustic guitar on many of the group’s song, leading to an unplugged, simplified sound found in many songs like this one and “SEVEN DAYS WAR”. Even Komuro scaled back on the synthesizers as he only used a light dance bass and basic synthesizers.

My favorite part is just before the chorus with the electronic guitar part done by Warren Cuccurullo, who is known for his works with Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Duran Duran, and others. When you first listen to the electronic guitar part, you might find it a bit out of place and might even bewilder you. However, you will start to realize that the guitar part is a great addition as it brings that certain hard rock edge to “Leprechaun Christmas”. That refreshing twist saves the song from turning into a boring, redundant album track.

By the way, the drums are done by Steve Ferrone, who was a session musician at the time and later on joined Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the 90s. (A side note: thanks to the success of “Get Wild” a year before humansystem’s release, the band was able to start to collaborate with well-known musicians and started to record their music in the US.)

This Christmas song is a simple song as it describes one’s view of what they perceive the Christmas season to be while thinking of love. The instrumentation is also basic but lovely as TM Network composes and arranges the song brilliantly with a folk rock vibe.

Give the song a listen below. Don’t forget to listen for the “surprise” before the chorus!

Achieving the Dream Within the Olympics

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Another round of the Summer Olympics has come and go. Legions of countries sent their finest athletes to Rio de Janerio to see who would come on top. Athletes trained for years and years to try to perfect that one moment of their lives. Capturing Gold.

Many around the world have watched various portions of the Games, cheering on their national treasures to excel and take the prized metal. Viewership peaked sharply when the opening and closing ceremonies. Dance, art, and music interpret the host city’s purpose and histories during these ceremonies. At the same time, each athlete enters the stadium and greeted by a thunderous applause from the millions attending.

Many of the world’s brightest music and movie stars perform in front of the world audience during these events. Some even come out of retire to sing one more time, like The Spice Girls. with their most anticipated reunion at the 2012 London Olympics.

However, there is one important piece of the Olympic puzzle that sometimes go unnoticed during the hype. That would be the soundtrack. This collection infuses the spirit of the Games with music through its rhythms, beats, notes, and words. One of the best representation is the soundtrack for 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

By the time of the album’s release, Christopher Cross was no stranger to the world’s attention. The singer-songwriter became an instant success when he released his self-titled album in 1979. Scoring several top 20 singles, Cross also walked away with five Grammys the following year. His follow-up album, “Another Page”, was yet another success that included various hits.

Cross’ career was never the same after the Summer Olympics as the musician couldn’t successfully gain a strong fan base with the new MTV generation. Cross continued to release albums with small success throughout the years. The latest album he released was “Secret Ladder” in 2014.

Christopher Cross was such an influential musician during the late 70s and early 80s that most Americans have listened to at least one of his songs during their lifetime. Even though he wasn’t very prominent in my generation, I grew up listening to his songs like “Ride Like a Wind” and “Sailing” as my parents loved listening to music from their youth.

Cross is a well-crafted musician as he has a smooth singing style, catchy tunes, and writes lyrics that is relatable to anyone. Because of his talents, Cross was able to successfully create “A Chance of Heaven” as a catchy and pleasing tune that could inspire anyone, athletic or not. The evidence is in the song as it starts off with a worried mood. This could be a motif for an athlete who has fully concerned everything on winning. However, with help from the lyrics, the mood lightens and becomes fully positive during the chorus as Cross reassures that there is always one more chance at everything.

The musician never falters as he amazingly arranged this song with electronic instruments like a blazing electronic guitar, synthesizer, and drum kits. Cross doesn’t use these instruments heavy most of the time. He uses them instead in a light way to create a dreamlike, calming atmosphere. His voice also portrays this light tone very well throughout the verses.

“A Chance of Heaven” is a magnificent piece for the Summer Olympics. Cross used the music and the lyrics triumphantly to paint a delightful musical picture of one’s ambition at getting gold during the Games. It’s not over the top and heavy but instead light and laid back as it’s mood tries to present the theme vigorously.

 

Please check out the 1984 Summer Olympics soundtrack too. It has wonderful pieces from John Williams, Quincy Jones, Toto, Loverboy, Bob James, and others.

 

 

 

The Mid-Year Review (2016 Version)

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It has been half a year! Time has mostly definitely flown by! I am sorry that this blog wasn’t as active like last year. Work has been extremely busy since the beginning of the school year (aka April) where I would just come home, cook dinner, take a shower, and go to bed extra early.  I also worked six days a week. I felt like I was working too much and not getting the necessary sleep I needed.

But! Everything has changed as I now work 5 days a week. I also have ample time to sleep and relax on a new bed. That’s right, a new bed! I was sleeping Japanese style for the past year with a bunch of futons and mattress piled on a hard wooden floor. But now I have an actual bed, I am able to sleep more peacefully now.

Enough of talking about the love of my life, I mean, my bed and my life. Let’s talk about music! Here are the top 5 most popular blog entries from January to July 2016!


5. Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)  (Written on January 12, 2016)

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe every day and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols”.

Read more here.

4. Get ready for the Olympics with Kobushi Factory (Written on July 17, 2016)

It is less than three weeks to the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. But, everyone is preparing for the major event of the year by releasing merchandise, airing the pre-game qualifiers on TV, talking about it on every morning show, and incorporating themes of the games and Rio de Janeiro in film and music.  This is no exception to Hello! Project, who has started a trend of providing Olympic-themed songs in the last five years.

Read more here.

3. My Thoughts on Eurovision (Written on May 15, 2016)

Eurovision 2016 has already come and go. There were really exceptional acts, good acts, and worst ones. As there were 26 performers for the four hours final, it will take me a while to get through all the acts. So, if I can remind myself to do it, there will be a part two next week to cover the other performances.

Read More Here.

2. Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume (Written on May 22, 2016)

One of my all-time favorite Japanese pop girl group just released their 61st single! Yes, you read it right, 61st! Although, I did talk about their 60thabout six months ago. Nevertheless. Morning Musume always impresses their fans with the ability to successfully reinvent themselves for the past 18 years.

Now, the 61st is a Triple A single, with the songs being ‘Tokyo to Iu Katsumi”, “The Vision”, and “Utakata Saturday Night”. I won’t be talking about all three songs as that could be a huge essay that could bore you and that I wasn’t really digging two of the songs from the single.

Read more here.

1. Celebrating Canada Day with Don’t Wanna Fall in Love by Jane Child (Written on July 5, 2015)

Over the past twenty or so years. many Canadian artists have been featured and became immensely popular all over the world. Barenaked Ladies, musical goddess Celine Dion, rock-pop princess Avril Lavigne, “boy wonder” Justin Bieber (which you should check out his new single with Skrillex), and others. But, none were more eccentric or skillful at playing the keyboards than today’s featured artist.

Read more here.

Surviving With Adventure in Modern Living

Combonation

WordPress had reminded me that it has been 22 days since I last posted  Sorry for the long hiatus. I been super busy with work observations, ups and downs, and etc. I also have been catching up on sorting the massive stockpile of music that I inherited from other blogs and auction sites. I still got a lot to get through but I don’t mind taking a break to blog about a song I recently found buried deep in this pile.

Usually every morning, I play iTunes on shuffle mode while I get ready for work. And on a normal weekday morning, I discovered Combonation. Yes, it’s not spelled wrong (although that is what Google and every other site thinks as they try to search for Randy Crawford’s “Combination” album instead). Not much is know about this 80’s band, except that it had around five members; drummer Billy Thomas, percussionist Randy Foote, vocalist and keyboardist Mark Hart, bass guitarist Randy Moors. and guitarist Steve Dudas, The band released their only album, a self-titled record, in 1984. It was produced by Ted Templeman who oversaw Van Halen’s releases.

The members went off to do their own stuff after the album’s release. Mark Hart went on to release two albums in the new millennium while performing in bands like Supertramp and Crowded House. Steve Dudas played guitar alongside Ringo Starr on tours and albums. It is unknown what Thomas, Foote, and Moors did after Combonation as there isn’t a lot of information on the internet about them.

“Adventure in Modern Living” is the second track off the album. It’s upbeat while a bit strange. You can tell that this was influenced by art rock artists like Kate Bush by the various techniques used in the song. You can hear that the bass is really prominent throughout, even more important than the guitar, when it switches back and forth from supporting the lead singer to having it’s own solo moments like during the bridge. Another art rock-like theme going on throughout the song is the use of a mandolin sound on the keyboard. It reminds me of how Kate Bush used the same instrument in the song “Babooshka”.

The lyrics may be a bit strange to some. The opening lines goes something like this: “A bird calls, a bear stalls, and gorillas grumbles. A city wakes, a mountain shakes, and an island crumbles.” However, I feel like it was the style of time; to display the simplicity of life through the music and lyrics.

If you enjoy any of the art rock acts of the 1980s, I am sure that you would like “Adventure in Modern Living”. I looooooooooove the art-rock aspect of the tune. I also like the vocal slides that the singer uses during the pre-chorus of “We are the audience”. It’s so awesome.

An Endearing Tune About a Mom’s Thankfulness

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A Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the precious and hardworking moms out there! This post is dedicated to all the moms, especially my own mom.

Today’s post is brought to you by Cheryl Pepsii Riley. A New York native, Riley was a nurse while pursuing a side job of singing. She would sing at nightclubs, do community theater, and also be part of of a group called Stargaze during her free time. During this time, Full Force member Bowlegged Lou approached Riley with an offer to produce her singing career with a song called “I Wonder If I Take You Home” in 1984. But, Riley refused the song and Lou eventually gave the song to Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam, which was a huge hit for the group.

Regretting the decision of rejecting the succesful “I Wonder If I Take You Home”, Riley reached out to Lou again in order for him to write another song for her. Eventually, she hit success with one of her first singles, “Thank You For My Child”, in 1988 when it reached #1 on the R&B charts in the US. The song, written by Bowlegged Lou, was a mid-tempo ballad about Lou’s experience with his wife’s complications during her first pregnancy.[1]

Although Riley enjoyed the success of having her song top the charts, she continued her career as a nurse while releasing songs and other material. She released three albums, which the first one reached #18 on the charts, with semi-successful singles. However, she took a break from the musical industry after the release of her third album in 1993.

Riley reemerged in the late 90s and early 00s as an actress in a bunch of Tyler Perry’s plays. She also appeared in various film adaptations of Perry’s productions such as 2011’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family”.

“Thank You For My Child” starts off with a lento tempo. Only a series of triads and skeleton chords are played to support Riley during the first verse. The instrumentation rarely ever expands on those chords with the help of an 808 bass, Roland synthesizer, and electric piano. The instrumentation doesn’t gain memento until the last third of the song when the instruments plays a little bit more of recognizable melody. Although, one of my favorite parts of the song is when the electric piano plays an a sweet chordal progression when the song briefly switches to a minor key during the first verse.

Riley’s vocals is one of the pinnacle points of “Thank You For My Child”. Her voice is smooth yet just the right of powerful needed for this song. It’s a perfect fit for this inspirational ballad as it isn’t overpowering the backing instrumentation. It’s tone is pretty warm in order to help support and convey the song’s meaning in a motherly way. An example of this is found at the ending when Riley sings strong yet tender vocal runs.

The lyrics are another important point. It’s beautifully written as it told from a perspective of a single mother who cherishes and thanks the man above for her precious child. It is such an inspiration to mothers and non-mothers alike as anyone can relate this warm and caring thank you letter. If you have a chance, you should check them out on Genius.com to see how inspiring these lyrics are.

Moms, thank you for all what you do and loving your family unconditionally. You’re the true superheroes.


Credits

[1]  “Cheryl Pepsii Riley – Thanks For My Child.” Genius. Web. 15 May 2016. (http://genius.com/Cheryl-pepsii-riley-thanks-for-my-child-lyrics)