2018/04/20

18. SPOON (1998.06.17)


01. Your Birthday

An odd choice for an opening track, but it's a great song. It's on the softer side, but it's actually really catchy. I can't help but think that it sounds kinda familiar, though. Someone out there will probably be able to figure out what song I'm thinking of...

02. Ame no hi wa ningyo

Another slower song, but this one isn't sung as sweetly as the previous track. Good, but just a little bit too generic.

03. Rakuen no megami

A more upbeat song, and a pretty decent one. It isn't the greatest production, but the singing is as good as you can expect it to be. An enjoyable track, for sure.

04. Kon'ya, nagareboshi

The second single from this album. This is a slow song, which is largely uncharacteristic of Nakamori's 90s singles. I think she may have missed out by not releasing more singles like this during the decade. Sales would tell another tale, though. This only peaked at Number sixty six on the Oricon singles chart. It's a shame because it's reminiscent of her earlier successful singles done with some much better singing.

05. Kisei ~Never Forget~

Here is the lead single from the album. It's very good, but fairly slower. I don't know exactly how to describe this one other than...very 90s and very Nakamori. I like it a lot.

06. Shukufuku

Not sure I dig this one too much. It's a slower song with a pretty lame choice of piano tone. We get Nakamori's sweet voice once again here at least. It's always nice when that shows up. It was pretty common around this time it seems.

07. Yuki no hana ~White X'mas~

I'm not entirely sure why this song is on this album given it's June release...but here we are. I should also mention that an alternate version of it appears on the single for Trust Me in 1999. I wonder what the deal was. A very slow song with almost haunting vocals. It does lighten up a little bit at least...and it isn't a bad song either.

08. Arashi no nakade

The B-Side to Kon'ya, nagareboshi. Really good song, but it's on the slower side like everything else on this album. It was a great pairing for the single needless to say.

09. Genwaku

Another slow song, but definitely one that you can groove to. Some great structure and equally as strong singing to go a long with it. It's dreamy in a really good way.

10. BLOWING FROM THE SUN

Very slow song. I mean...do I really have to say it at this point? It's good in it's simplicity. Just a light music track and Nakamori singing.

11. Hanakumori

This is a slow one, which is fine, but the lousy piano choice from Shukufuku is back. It at least feels like an outro song, which is nice.

OVERALL: There are two things I should probably mention before I really give an opinion about this album. One: Nakamori produced this herself and I give her credit for the consistency of music on this album. Two: Another record label change. Yep, Nakamori was done with MCA Victor and was now signed with THIS ONE...which was a subsidiary of GAUSS Entertainment...which was a subsidiary of Tokuma Japan Communications. I know the US music industry was awash with sub-labels within sub-labels in the 90s but I didn't realize that it was a thing in Japan as well.

There isn't much of a pulse in this album, but it definitely isn't bad. It's just not one for my tastes. I kinda feel like the variety and liveliness of the previous two albums were kinda the result of Nakamori finally being able to branch away from Warner and do new stuff at her own pace with names that she previously weren't able to work with. This almost feels like a return to the Warner days...and that isn't bad thing. I might not be the biggest fan of this album, but it sold pretty well.

PREVIOUS: SHAKER
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2018/04/19

17. SHAKER (1997.03.21)


01. Mangetsu

A great lead-in song. The gradual build-up leads into a really chill song. I can't quite put my finger on why I like this song so much, but the combination of it's elements make for such a smooth track.

02. Spicy Heart

Strange title aside, this one is alright. It's just a little bit on the disjointed side. I enjoy the singing and some of the more subtle elements, but the bass and some of the random sounds are just a little bit too distracting. Not good or bad...totally listenable.

03. Yoru no nioi

I like this one. It's a little bit on the funkier side, but the breathy vocals don't kind line up with what the music is doing. It's a well-made song.

04. Oishi mizu

This one gets it all right. Everything lines up perfectly. This is a jazzier song that has a pretty decent pulse to it. It's only crime may be that it doesn't do much to stand out. Does that matter too much on an album, though?

05. MOONLIGHT SHADOW -Tsukini hoero (Album Mix)

Awwww yeah. So you may remember my excitement for the Akina Nakamori X Tetsuya Komuro pairing on UNBALANCE + BALANCE. Well he's back! For one song only. This happens to be the lead single from this album and naturally it's quite a bit different from the single version.

Killer song. Admittedly I didn't think too much of it at first because TK was kinda running out of steam at this point of the 90s. The repetition kinda makes this evident. It grew on me, though...and when you have different versions it kinda helps flesh it out a little bit.

It's definitely more of a dance hit than what we heard previously on this album. Naturally...it's what TK was doing during the decade. He got some great vocals out of Nakamori here. The album version has a lot more variety than the single version. The extended intro and outro here are the biggest clues, but there are a lot of little subtle differences peppered in.

06. Akai bara ga yureta

Another dance song. The 180 that this album took is really weird. That said...great song!! The music is on point and Nakamori does an awesome job. Jump ahead to my review of Cage... I feel a rant coming on when I get to a particular track on that album.

07. APPETITE ~HORROR PLANTS BENJAMIN

Another great song. This is the remix version of APPETITE, which was the second single from this album.

The horns! While MOONLIGHT SHADOW is an awesome song and the better single, this one will get stuck in your head. It's a jazz track that gains some additional pep at times...but the horns!

Really, this is a crazy catchy song. I kinda prefer the single version, though, since it skips out on some of the lazy remix elements that kinda stick out here. It isn't messed with too much...but you can tell when it has been.

08. Yumemiru youni nemuritai

While this is a lighter song, it's certainly much quicker. It also has a nice Latin sound blended it. Good song with some excellent singing, but this is the second change of pace that this album has undergone.

09. Sakura (biya ku)

The title kinda reflects the song. It's a slow song and one that is sung very well. It hardly sounds like Nakamori. Sure there are some minor tells, but this is some serious effort. Very good.

10. Kaze o dakishimete

A jazzier song that is more on par with some of the earlier tracks on the album. Incredibly chill. I like this one as well.

11. Tsuki wa aoku

I know I've long stated that I love Nakamori's albums that go out with a bang, but this one ends on a great ballad...chilling almost.

OVERALL: Akina Nakamori's 90s albums are criminally overlooked. This one is no exception. I liken this album a lot to UNBALANCE + BALANCE. A wonderful album full of great songs...that is just a little too scatter-brained for it's own good. A lot of people worked on it and it was recorded in a lot of places over a long period of time. Seriously...it's lead single, MOONLIGHT SHADOW, was released a full nine months before the album's release.

A *very* worthwhile listen, but I tend to still steer myself to la alteración for some 90s Nakamori goodness. Give this one a shot. It's very broad in it's appeal.

PREVIOUS: la alteración
NEXT: SPOON

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2018/04/18

16. la alteración (1995.07.21)


01. GAIA ~Chikyu no sasayaki~

Awesome, awesome, awesome opening track.

After a prolonged intro, the song finally kicks in...and it's a rockin' tune with a surf tinge to it. It's just another one of those things that makes more sense than it should. Akina Nakamori singing over surf music. You can give her any type of song and she just kills it.

02. Sunflower

Another incredibly solid track. The layered music almost clashes with the singing, but it all just kinda works in a really wonderful way. This one is upbeat jazz with a vocal track more suited for something much slower. It's a very good song.

03. Genshi, onna wa taiyo datta

This one is actually a single...and the only one directly from this album. In this case, however, this is the album version. The single edit has different vocals.

Intensely catchy is a good way to describe it. There is probably a good reason for that as this track is heavy on the fast strings and faux-claps. Yep. This one is a Latin themed song. I love it! Nakamori has done some of her finest work with the genre.

04. TSURAI • TSURAI

A upbeat jazzy track that probably would have fit in just as well on UNBALANCE + BALANCE. 1995 is probably the very last year something like this could have been pulled off. That said, it's muuuuch better than some of the lesser tracks on UNBALANCE + BALANCE.

05. Shitataru jonetsu

Following a pretty epic sounding intro, this is a pretty chill jazz track. It's great...but the beginning is kinda bigger than the song that follows it. When the music from the intro picks up in the middle, it's just as weird.

06. Itai koi o shita

This one is a slow song. Getting back to Sunflower, this is the type of song that the vocals would sound more at home at in mind. Maybe if it were a little more lively. Kinda weird, right? When I sit here and think about it...it kinda works.

07. Necessary

This one is another slow song. I actually prefer this one over Itai koi o shita, though. It's like a 90s version of one of her 80s songs. The saxophone is the giveaway.

08. Muku

A lively song with a lot of the sunshine that permeated in the earlier songs on this album. The biggest strengths this album has it with it's brass and it's bass. Muku has it all on display. Great song.

09. Dakara nan'na no

A great rock song to go out on. It's a bit too bright to compare it to anything on STOCK, but it's just as peppy.

OVERALL: While UNBALANCE + BALANCE has some incredible songs on it...THIS is return of Akina Nakamori. It has all of the hallmarks of her 80s album (great intro/outro, varied mix of styles) while being definitively 90s. I highly recommend this album. It's very well put together if just a little bit short. If you're fortunate enough, you might be able to score the "+4" version, which includes both singles of the era...one of which is the awesome Tokyo Rose. Can't wait to talk about that single someday...

PREVIOUS: UNBALANCE + BALANCE
NEXT: SHAKER

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2018/04/17

15. UNBALANCE + BALANCE (1993.09.22)


01. Eien no tobira

This track is entirely reminiscent of some of her work a decade prior. The orchestra backing the light strings is a winning combination. The big difference this time around is the experience in Nakamori's voice. A incredibly beautiful song to start off with, but it may not be the power-track that a lot of her previous albums launch with. For that we have...

02. Aibu

Yes! This is Nakamori's first collaboration with super-producer Tetsuya Komuro of TM Network/TMN/90s JPOP fame. I would also consider myself a super-fan of Komuro's work, so this is a match made in heaven.

TK provided a pretty solid dance track for Nakamori as well. Granted, his songs tend to sound alike a lot of the time, but I absolutely love this one. The funny thing is, the two of them made a TV appearance to perform this song...and it's somehow even better than this album/single version. The TV version is just a little bit more complete. TK even provides some backing vocals.

Goddamn...I wish Nakamori and Komuro worked more together. Up until very recently it could have been a possibility. Tetsuya Komuro announced his retirement in January 2018.

Seriously, this is a solid song. The beat is just so slick, Nakamori is her usual perfection, and it has the usual TK over-production. I wouldn't say that this is my favorite single of Nakamori's from the 90s (this was a Double A-Side with Kataomoi), but it's waaaay up there.

03. Kuroshoubi

This is the type of song that I figured would dominate this album. It's 1993 and everyone was into this soft jazz that only required 50% real instruments. It's great, though. It's certainly much livelier than anything from CRUISE.

04. YOU ARE EVERYTHING

Here is another type of sound that I thought would dominate this album. The uptempo jazz diddy. Great song...and totally of it's time. It's kinda surprising that this album was actually recorded in Japan... It kinda has more of that New York sound that Nakamori had relied on more than once in the past without ever leaving the country on this track.

05. Hikari no nai mangekyou

Very short track with...not much to it. Just some brief choir-esque singing.

06. Nemuru yori nakitai yoru ni

Another slick jazz track. While it would have been a little more pliable with some more real instruments...it's of the time. I can't fault it for that. That said, I like it a lot.

07. NORMA JEAN

An almost remix of Aibu. I like the music on this one, but the singing is just a little bit flat. It sounds like a lost TM Network song. Yeah, Tetsuya Komuro is back on this one obviously. I'm going to go on a limb and say that the lashes of Aibu were intentional. Then again...TK did repeat himself a lot.

08. NOT CRAZY TO ME (LP Edit)

Behind Aibu, this might be the stand out track on the album. NOT CRAZY TO ME is just a jam. I'm sorry, TK, but this beat is just a little bit too laser tight. The producer in question on this track is Ryuichi Sakamoto who is...legendary. Without rattling off any of his work, I can say that you've probably heard or seen his work in some capacity. I mean, he even showed up in a Gaki no Tsukai Batsu Game where Hamada has to go to NYC to retrieve a pen from him that he borrowed from Matsumoto. Heh. Good times...and I may have gotten off track just a bit...

I highly recommend this track is you really want just a solid song to kick back to. It's just structured so perfectly...

You may notice that this is an "LP Edit". Not a whole lot was added over the single version. The beat was filled out just a little bit more along with some smatterings of vocalization.

09. Kagerou

This album kinda ends on the same note that it began. This is the only truly mellow song on the album, though.

There is a little bit of a hidden track tacked on to this. It's the music box version of Kuroshoubi.

OVERALL: While I love basically all of the songs on this album...it's kind of a mess thematically. At only nine tracks, it's also criminally short. This is Nakamori's first album after signing with Victor, and one that she produced herself. I actually have a lot of faith in her as a producer, but this is just a little bit too random. To make things weirder, there were more songs to add. The awesome, awesome EVERLASTING LOVE is absent and the subtle changes to NOT CRAZY TO ME weren't really necessary.

I should also say that the particular copy of this album that I own is the UNBALANCE + BALANCE +6. It features singles and their B Sides from the era. I probably wouldn't have been thrilled with the brief nine-track version of this album in 1993. It is full of good music, though, and is a fantastic return to music for Nakamori.

PREVIOUS: CRUISE
NEXT: la alteración

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2018/04/16

14. CRUISE (1989.07.25)


01. URAGIRI

Jesus. The title alone should give us a clue about what type of album we're in for. It's even written as URAGIRI in romaji.

Despite being a bit of a downer, this song is a pretty solid start to what was the final album from her days at Warner/Pioneer and nearly her life in general.

02. Akai fushigi (Mystery)

Another slow one, but this one has some nice tricks to it. The music is well put together and, of course, the singing is on point. This is reminiscent of 1983/84 Nakamori.

03. Sayonaraja owaranai

A bit on the soft side, but a decent track nonetheless. It kinda reminds me of OH NO, OH YES! without the catchy hook.

04. LIAR

Ooof. I did talk about this one previously in my Singles 1982-1991 review. I like the song, but as I have been clamoring for songs to be singles from the last few albums, this had to be the first one since 1985 to appear on an album and single?? It was a number one song, though. What do I know?

On the serious, I like the song...but I kinda don't like the circumstance behind it's likely selection.

05. Ranka

This one is an old-school slow song. Again, this is very reminiscent of some of her early work--just with some slight updates.

06. Close Your Eyes

A slick little jazz number that is a much welcome change of pace. The fake drumbeat is kinda on the blah side, but I actually dig this song as a whole. The singing isn't unlike what was heard on CRIMSON.

07. Standing in Blue

I like this one too. It's on the light side, but has enough chops to be unique. The underlying horns and weird, umm, piano "chop" effect make it just a little more memorable than it could have been.

08. Kaze wa sora no kanata

A slow song that is closer to being a concept song than anything else. There are some odd fragments spaced throughout. It's a good song, if a little disjointed. The singing is great, though.

09. SINGER

For me, this is probably the standout song on the album. I know it mostly from it's use during the Yume Live 1991 tour. It's a great jazz number.

10. Ame ga futteta...

A slow song, but it does have some life to it. I suppose compared to a lot of the normal fare on this album, this is probably the best choice for the closing track. As it ventures more into the ballad territory, it's also a little bit of a throwback. The use of an orchestra kinda brings that point home.

OVERALL: This album, while definitely not a favorite of mine, actually remains a popular one among fans. As I mentioned earlier, this was her final album released at Warner. I suppose going out on this note is a little more fitting rather than rocking the house with Stock or confusing the fans with Fushigi. The writing was on the wall. Eerily enough, this album was recorded in Hit Factory in New York City. Famous for many things, chief among which is that it was the last place that John Lennon was said to have recorded before his death.

Nakamori was in full breakdown mode right around the time this album was released, and only three more single would be released before the economic bubble burst. Anyone who had a career in 1991 suddenly didn't by 1992.

Next time I explore the first release of post-bubble Nakamori. She'll have a new label, a new team, and a new sound...maybe.

PREVIOUS: Femme Fatale
NEXT: UNBALANCE + BALANCE

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2018/04/15

13. Femme Fatale (1988.08.03)


01. Reversion (Desire)

We're off to a pretty good start. Reversion is a good sign of things to come. Some rock slickness mixed in with some heavy synths. There is plenty of that going forward, but to some wildly varying degrees.

02. Heartbreak

Case in point, the synth tone selected for this song is a bit much. I wouldn't say it's bad enough to hurt your teeth, but it's actually quite the distraction to an otherwise pretty decent song. You'd never really know given that it has the single most generic title of any Nakamori song.

03. Dakishimete ite (Love Is My Favorite Lesson)

Smoooooth. I like this one. Heavy on the bass and it kinda slips into high gear when it has to.

04. Femme Fatale

The titular track...and it's pretty good despite featuring another misplaced synth tone. It's definitely not the choice I would have made.

05. I Know kodoku no sei

Once you get past the frantic piano opening, this song is kinda messy. The vocals are too loud and the bass is too loud and mechanical sounding. It's not bad, but just kinda misses.

06. La Liberté

More of that shrill synth. I mean, it was popular at the time...but I kinda wish it weren't so prominent. That said, I actually like this song. The beat has some legs to it and it has a cool breakdown a little over half way through.

07. So Mad

The stand out song from the album. While it was never a single, it was used to promote the album on television. It's easy to see why. Not only is it catchy, it starts off with a frickin' whip sound effect. Even more promising is that the man behind it is Asato Sekine of EUROX. He worked pretty closely with Nakamori in 1988. A great upbeat track that has some of that EUROX flavor goodness sprinkled in.

The only issue that this song has is that the audio peaks about halfway through. What the hell?

08. Paradise Lost (Love Is In Fashion)

Back to reality. This song isn't the best, but it's not bad either. It's just...not very organic. Not to mention, the "Love, Love, Love, Love" is just...ehhh. This one has it's merits, but it's also kinda messy.

09. Move Me (Strictly Confidential)

Great singing wrapped around an otherwise kinda drab song. That said, I can see a universe where it could have made it as a single. It's solid enough.

10. Jive

The shrill synths are back for one last round. Honestly, this is a pretty good song. As it's the final track, it follows the tradition of ending big. I can't say I listen to this album on the regular, but this is one of the ones I tend to hit at random along with So Mad and Reversion.

OVERALL: It was never going to live up to Stock to me. I have to be totally honest about Stock...while I gushed about it in my review of it, it was a slow burn to the top. Femme Fatale grew on me as well...but not so much in the same respect. I've always liked Stock, it just took a bit longer for me to truly appreciate it. I didn't like Femme Fatale at all when I first heard it. It's a bit of a directionless mess at first listen. I dig it now, though. Nakamori doesn't seem entirely invested in it outside of a few key songs, but does a totally passable job.

The funny thing is...this album did hit number one on the Oricon chart whereas Stock only reached two. Before you start thinking I have crappy tastes, Stock was ranked the nineteenth best album of the year while Femme Fatale topped out at thirtieth. I guess it just had a release better week.

Worth a spin, but I don't anticipate that this will be a favorite for anyone--especially a new listener.

PREVIOUS: Stock
NEXT: CRUISE

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2018/04/14

12. Stock (1988.03.03)


01. FAREWELL

It doesn't take you long to realize you're in for a great ride.

Since the last three albums had their own themes (multiple themes in some cases), this one kinda simplifies it all. Rock. That's it.

FAREWELL is an excellent choice to open the whole thing. This song...and really the album that follows is Nakamori at her absolute best. Spoilers, right? Just the sheer strength of her vocals are intense and is backed by music that is equally as intense.

02. Yume no fuchi

After three albums of Nakamori playing up a gimmick of some kind, it's nice to hear her true vocals once again. Not only that, there has been some growth. Yume no fuchi is a continuation of FAREWELL, even if it's smidge softer. It kind of reminds me of some of EUROX's songs from MEGATREND that didn't have anything to do with Fushigi. It even had a big-time lyricist... Ryo Asuka, who is better known as ASKA of CHAGE and ASKA. You've probably at least heard of him...but maybe not for the best reasons these days.

03. CRYSTAL HEAVEN

Awesome song. Fantastic use of backing vocals on this song in particular. While this isn't the catchiest of the songs on the album, this one is an absolute belter as well.

04. Mada juubun janai

A bit slower, but still undoubtedly a rock song. So far, not a weak song to be heard on this album!

05. FIRE STARTER

Why in the world was this song not a single? I mean it. Maybe it's a little too extreme, but considering this album only peaked at number two, this song absolutely could have sold the extra albums to bump it to the top spot.

FIRE STARTER is easily the biggest earworm from this album. It's probably the heaviest of the songs as well. Not so much with the music, but Nakamori just sells the hell out of it. On top of all of that, her English is perfect during the few random English lines. Awesome, awesome song. Satisfaction Guaranteed!

06. NIGHTMARE

Some of music from this song sound kinda familiar...

This song also rules. Like many of the other songs, it's a wonder why this wasn't sold as a single. It's catchy as all hell and just incredibly well made.

07. I WANNA CHANCE

I rank this among my top tracks on the album. If you listen to it, you might wonder why at first. It's one of the "softer" songs on the album, but it absolutely stands out for one thing and one thing only...

I WANNA CHANCE!

There is absolutely nothing catchier than those lyrics and the music behind it when they're sung.

08. POISON LIPS

Great song, but I think this might be my least favorite on the album. It's just a little too predictable.

09. Shojo Densetsu

The intro of this song sounds suspiciously similar to the song of a cartoon plumber when he reaches for the stars...if you catch my drift.

This is one of the slower songs on the album, but it's so well made. You really have to dig in and listen to the details on repeat listens.

10. FOGGY RELATION

I've talked in the past about how Nakamori has a penchant for ending albums strong. This just might be my favorite finale of them all. The song is on the sweeter side, but has an insanely killer hook to it. It's...really the perfect ending to a perfect album.

OVERALL: As it turns out, I am writing this review on the 30th anniversary of this album's release! Yeah, it's the third of March, 2018. Sheer coincidence!

I know I intended to finish this series of posts off with a Top Seven List of my favorite albums, but I'm not going to make you wait. This is my favorite. Start to finish, Nakamori absolutely KILLS it. The last time we really got a normal album from her was D404ME from 1985. This album is her grand return to normalcy and really a showcase of personal growth. Those years of unusual albums masked some of her growing talent. This album was like the grand reveal of an incredibly rare flower blooming.

Some of that credit can certainly go to Kenji Kitajima of FENCE OF DEFENSE who worked on the arrangement for much of this album. While the staff list is quite varied, his influence is absolutely heard the most throughout.

This album is highly HIGHLY recommended. Just keep this in mind... In 1988, Akina Nakamori was rocking harder than Seikima-II.

PREVIOUS: Cross My Palm
NEXT: Femme Fatale

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