Suite Gradius Fantasia (It’s Sweet)

July 31st, 2014

In keeping with my “needlessly symphonic” theme… gradius Suite Gradius Fantasia
Overture
Navigation
The Ancient Planet
Gradius Sonata
Return to The Planet
Perpetual Aria
Gradius Fantasia
Farewell
Okay, so I’m not saying that the “Overture” to Gradius, redone with a full motherfucking symphonic orchestra (because why the hell not?) is one of the greatest pieces of music ever pressed to vinyl. I’m not saying that, okay?

But I am saying that it definitely, without question, kind of sort of holds its own to the symphonic version of the Airwolf theme – in as much as that I could totally see it as the theme song to an mid-80s sci-fi space drama. It’s certainly better than that bullshit theme music to the V series from 1984.

Anyways, I’m getting off topic, Suite Gradius Fantasia was released in 1988, near the tail-end of the big craze of game soundtracks in Japan. Now, don’t get me wrong, game soundtracks continued to be a pretty big deal over here, but in the mid-80s they were fucking huge. Countless games got full-fledged, prestige soundtrack releases, many times redone with full symphonies. And as I’ve mentioned before, many game publishers, both big and small, worked with game music label GMO to put out compilations featuring original and remade versions of themes from their most popular games.

The most well-known symphonic game scores of this time are most likely the Dragon’s Quest ones, but a lot of other games got the symphonic treatment as well- including Gradius. Although to be honest, this release really isn’t a proper symphonic album. Only two of the tracks (the Overture and the 10+ minute “Gradius Fantasia”) feature a proper full orchestra, the rest just feature a string quartet – but they’re also quite good.

I’m no maestro, I don’t know much about classical music, but I think this is a damn good album, one that can certainly hold its own against major movie soundtracks of the era. Hope you enjoy it too.

Now that I have these themes to Knight Rider and Airwolf I feel that I can do anything

July 29th, 2014

Somewhere, buried in a scrapbook, photo album or shoebox is a photo.

It is a photo of me at the (then) happiest moment of my life.

It is a photo of seven year old me in motherfucking K.I.T.T.

Goddamn that was a good day.

Man, remember when TV was awesome? TV used to be awesome. And I don’t mean bullshit critically acclaimed awesome of today’s TV. I mean talking cars, flying motorcycles, shapeshifting detectives, cyborg secret agents, electro-kinetic guitarists and Night Court.

What’s on TV now? Shitty sexist sitcoms, non-stop reality TV, and over-the-top exploitation garbage disguising itself as art.

Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff out there I guess. TV shows with nuance, interesting, complex characters, dramatic tension, and amazing acting. But fuck that shit. When I turn on the TV, I want to escape from reality completely and without question. I want to be free of tension, depression, anxiety and sadness. I don’t want to be reminded of anything horrible, any of mankind’s ills, and of the horrible problems in the world. I want to see a man and a talking car fight crime. I want to see a helicopter take out…whoever the bad guys in Airwolf were (it’s been a while). And I want to see it without a hint of pretense, without any suggestion that the people behind the scenes are thinking for one second they are making art (which was the problem with Lost, Heroes, and just about any other “serious” sci-fi show of the past 15 years).

And I’m sure there are a lot of TV fans reading this right now thinking that I’m full of shit. Fine, maybe I am full of shit. Maybe you (and everyone else) was right and Breaking Bad was actually a great show; maybe Game of Thrones is actually a well-written fantasy that doesn’t bank on controversy and sexism to bring in the ratings; maybe the Big Bang Theory actually is funny (FUCK YOU NO IT’S NOT).

Maybe all that is true. But I’ll tell you one thing; none of those shows, not a single one, have a theme song as epic as the theme song to Airwolf.

20140729_205420

20140729_205407

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Japan Symphonic Orchestra/K.R. Right Project
Airwolf Theme 1
Knight Rider Theme 2
Knight Rider Theme 1
Knight Rider Theme 3
Airwolf Theme 3
Airwolf Theme 2
I fucking love Japan and stuff like this is why. An EP comprised entirely of cover versions of theme music from Knight Rider and Airwolf, two shows that had absolutely nothing in common, not even networks, aside from the fact that both had utterly amazing theme music (and completely radical vehicles as the title characters). Why release something like this? Because the Japanese know amazing music when they hear it.

The first track is an extended, very extended (eight minute!) symphonic take on the Airwolf theme. And yes, it is as unbelievably amazingly spectacularly stupendous as you think it is.

The other five tracks are primarily synthesized versions of the music from both TV shows, featuring elements from the series’ incidental music as well as the main themes.  They’re all amazing, but hey, when you lead with an eight minute symphonic version of the motherfucking Airwolf theme, other shit just seems weak in comparison.

By the way “K.K. Right Project” is actually Kenji Kawai, a Japanese composer who worked on about a billion different Patlabor projects.

I am exhausted. Here are remixes of RuPaul songs

July 28th, 2014

Sorry for another abbreviated post. It’s been a long few days (in the good way!) and I can barely keep my eyes open right now. Tomorrow’s post will be epic in both music and writing I promise you that.

RuPaul
A Shade Shady (Now Prance) (12″ Mix)
A Shade Shady (Now Prance) (Wild Pitch Mix)
A Shade Shady (Now Prance) (DJ Pierre Club Mix)
A Shade Shady (Now Prance) (Alternate Mix)
Back To My Roots (Secchi’s Extended Mix)
Snapshot (Eric Kupper Funkin’ Dub)
Snapshot (Eric Kupper Extended Mix)
Snapshot (Vission & Lorimer Disco-Tech)
Snapshot (Welcome’s Moody Mix)
You better work.

Yen Memorial Album

July 24th, 2014

yen

I’ve written about Yen Records before, but in case you’re just joining us for the first time – Yen Records was a sub-label of Alfa Records, launched in the early-80s by Japanese electronic superstars Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO).

The label pretty much became a clearinghouse for YMO to release music by their friends and colleagues. YMO members Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono often performed on many Yen releases, as did Ryuichi Sakamoto, albiet to a lesser extent.

In 1984, Yen Records founder Kunihiko Murai passed away, and this record is a tribute to him – featuring many exclusive tracks and remixes by a wide variety of Yen artists. It’s a great record, and an excellent summary of the Yen label. I hope you like it.

Yen Artists
God Be With Us Till We Meet Again
Platonic Stochastic
I don’t know who the “Yen Artists” are, but if the rest of this album’s tracklisting is any indication, I suspect that these tracks include all three members of YMO, Tachibana, Koji Ueno and Jun Togawa, among others. The first track is, I think, an adaptation of an old hymn, and it was written by Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono. The second is a very unusual, almost musique conrete, composition that was written by Ueno.

Yellow Magic Orchestra
Rydeen (Remix Version)
I own 27 different versions of “Rydeen,” so I’m fairly confident in saying that this remixed version is exclusive to this album. It’s not all that different than the original cut, it actually comes off more like a single edit with some really random sound effects thrown in, but goddamn if it isn’t a great piece of synthpop.

Hajime Tachibana
Rock (New Recording)
Previous Tachibana I unearthed featured him sounding like Art Of Noise. This has him sounding like Art of Noise meets 80s-electro era Herbie Hancock. Robot vocals! Sweet keyboard riffs! Sequencers! Loving every minute of this.

I bet Daft Punk have this track on vinyl.

Sandii & The Sunsetz
Sticky Music (Remix French Version)
I posted some Sandii stuff a few months back. I’ll probably be deleting those links in a day or so. So if you’re interested in them, check that post out.

Sandii is fucking great though and I love her. So expect more Sandii on Lost Turntable in the near future.

Guernica
Maronie Dokuhon (Remix Version)
Guernica is Kenji Ueno and Jun Togawa. Seperately they released classical piano music, synthpop, prog rock and damn near everyting in between. Combined they sound like some bizarre fusion of opera, cabaret and YMO backing tracks. Like Klaus Nomi? You’ll probably like this.

Miharu Koshi
Petit Paradis (English Version)
One of the many idol-type singers who Haruomi collaborated with during the Yen years. I don’t know how popular she was during her peak, but she’s continued to be incredibly prolific, sometimes going through periods of releasing albums on a near annual basis. This is a cute song, very typical of the kind of stuff that Hosono was releasing with other artists at the time.

Inoyama Land
Pokala (Remix Version)
Inoyama Land were a duo comprised of Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita. In 1983 they put out their first album, Danzindan-Pojidon, on Yen Records. It’s a pretty great collection of ambient electronica, and if you dig Tangerine Dream, Diskjokke or The Orb, I think you might like it. It’s never been released on CD outside of the super-pricey Yen Box though, so it’s probably a bit hard to find. I’ll probably put it up here someday.

The group also has two other releases, both coming out years later in the late 90s. I think at least one is a compilation of unreleased material. Outside of Inoyama Land both Yamashita and Inoue were members of a group called Hikashu, one of the only Japanese synth-pop acts from the era who don’t seem to have any YMO connections.

Keiichi Ohta
Seean No Kodomoichiba (Remix Version)
This man only released one album, the utterly strange collaborative effort with no English title that is based on an obscure Japanese novel. This track is a remix of a song from that album, and features operatic vocals by Makito Hayashi, who never released anything on her own. The track was written by Keiichi, but was produced by Hosono and Takahashi, and features keys by Koji Ueno, practically making this a YMO track.

Koji Ueno
Adagietto (Remix Version)
Ueno is on so many tracks on this record that it’s nearly an Ueno LP. All this Ueno has left me wanting to know more about him, so I went digging on Discogs. Apparently this man is (or at least was) a goto studio player in Japan, and has appeared on dozens of albums, including many from YMO members and associates. From what I can gather, he’s an accomplished pianist, violinist and bass player – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an accomplished marimba, saxophone and flutist as well. Dude seems like the type.

This is a very mellow piece, unlike just about anything else on the album – classical almost. Very relaxing.

Yukihiro Takahashi
It’s Gonna Work Out (Remix Version)
This is a remixed version of a track that appears in its original version on Takahashi’s 1982 album What, Me Worry? Like pretty much all things Takahashi-related from the 80s, it’s pure gold. The more of Takahashi’s solo stuff I hear, the more I think he was the most talented pop musician in YMO. Sure Hosono and Sakamoto may be more technically gifted and diverse than Takahashi, but I’ve never heard pop music by either that’s as good as some of the stuff on Takahashi’s solo records. The man is incredible.

Super Eccentric Theater
Beat The Rap (Remix Version)
Super Eccentric Theater (Or S.E.T.) was a comedy troupe that was on Yen Records. I think I can hear Yukihiro on this track in the chorus.

This is their send-up of rap music.

It’s not funny.

Testpattern
Modern Living (Remix Version)
Testpattern released one album, 1982′s Apres-Midi, which I snagged a while back. I love it, even if they do sound a bit like YMO also-rans with a more mellow, easy-listening sound. This is a remixed version of a track from that album, and it’s better than the album version thanks to some nice added synths.

Jun Togawa
Do Not Renai (New Recording)
The singer of Guernica strikes again, this time with a nice synthpop ballad. This sounds like early Kate Bush. So those with a low tolerance for squeaky vocals may want to proceed with caution.

Interior
Hawks (Remix Version)
Interior put out a couple of records in the early 80s. I have one, and to be honest it’s nothing to write home about. Their instrumental tracks were okay, but whenever they tried to add vocals to the mix they just sounded bland and boring. This is an okay song, but nothing really memorable either.

Tamao Koeike
Kagami No Naka No Jugatsu (Remix Version)
The name may read Tamao Koeike in the LINER notes, but this is a YMO track. They wrote it, and they perform all the instrumentation on it. Koeike is just the singer. And she apparently didn’t really impress anyone at Yen Records, as the single for this track was the only thing she ever released. A shame, as it’s not a bad tune and she has a nice voice.

Haruomi Hosono
Yunemiru Yakusoko (Original Version)
Typical Hosono stuff from the 80s – meaning that it’s really damn good.

The Super Flyest

July 23rd, 2014

I NEED HELP SOMEONE HELP ME.

There is an insanely awesome super deluxe edition of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome coming out later this year via PledgeMusic. However, do to stupid bullshit lawyer shit, it can’t be purchased by anyone living in the US or Japan. As those are the only two billing addresses I have, I’m screwed.

Would any of my UK/Australia/wherever readers be so kind as to buy it in my stead and mail it to me? I’ll pay for everything, including shipping, of course. I’ll even send you some tunes if you so desire.

If so, leave a comment with your email address. I won’t approve it, I’ll just use it to contact you. Thanks!

Someone helped me out! Thanks for all the offers everyone!

And now for something completely different.

tnt

Super Fly TNT – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The original Super Fly is widely regarded as a classic of the “Blaxploitation” era of films, and is typically mentioned in the same breath as other classics such as Shaft, Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones. But here’s the thing about Super Fly – it’s really not that good a movie.

I mean, yeah, it’s not a bad movie. It certainly oozes style, and Ron O’Neal is one of the coolest motherfuckers who ever graced the silver screen. But it’s a pretty boring flick. It meanders for far too long, the acting is at times incredibly weak, and it’s not even directed all that well. And it’s entirely lacking in Antonio Fargas, who was literally in every other blaxploitation movie from 1969 to 1978. The only reason why we still talk about Super Fly to this date is because of its soundtrack, which is still probably one of the top five greatest soundtracks of all-time (a list that, for me, includes Purple Rain, The Crow and Flashdance and I will not budge on that).

But while Super Fly isn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, I’m going to assume that it’s better than the sequel Super Fly T.N.T., which came out just a year after the 1972 original.

I say “assume” because, while I’ve read a great deal about the flick and have watched the odd clip on YouTube, I’ve never actually seen the movie in its entirety. It’s barely been seen by anyone since it’s original theatrical release, in fact. It would occasionally resurface on VHS throughout the mid-80s (I know my dad’s video store had a copy) but that was about it. As far as I know it has never been aired on cable television and its never been released on Blu-ray, let alone DVD, or even freakin’ laserdisc. It belongs in the pantheon of great lost films still searching for a new home video release, alongside other classics such as Willard, Rad and Meatballs III, y’know – classics.

Equally rare is the film’s soundtrack, which was performed and composed by African band Osibisa. It was released on LP alongside the film in 1973 and that was it for that. Judging from its rarity it appears that it never even got a second pressing on vinyl, and to date has never had an official CD release. And it’s a damn shame, because while I can’t speak to the quality of the film from which it came, the soundtrack to Super Fly T.N.T. is some dope shit. An amazing combination of funk, African music, and even some rock elements, it holds up amazingly well.  Check it out.

But whatever you do, don’t check out anything that’s even remotely involved with the second Super Fly sequel; The Return of Super Fly. Amazing VHS box art aside, that is not a quality flick.

 

I Was (Not Was) Lonely

July 22nd, 2014

I cannot believe I’ve been keeping up this pace for almost the entire month now. I don’t think I’ve written this much in years, even if it is just a little bit everyday. It feels good, good enough that I’m going to try and keep up a similar pace even when the month ends. Not everyday mind you, no way, this shit is insane, but I really am going to try and update this site at least twice a week starting in August.

And I’ll hopefully someday remember that I have another site and write stuff there again. Actually, I have two major projects planned for that site, I just need to motivate my lazy ass to actually write them. They involve, like, work and stuff though, so it’s a little harder than me just rambling on about 80s dance remixes like I tend to do here. Here’s hoping I can put them together tough. More people need to hear my complex and involved thoughts on Yes.

I want to review every Yes album. I don’t know why. I don’t even like Yes that much.

Was (Not Was)
How The Heart Behaves (12″ Vocal Mix)
How The Heart Behaves (Bonus Rub)
How The Heart Behaves (Club 7″)
How The Heart Behaves (That’s How the Bollerhouse Behaves Mix)
Glad I can find second-rate remixes my 80s also rans in Japan as well as America. I bought this in a Disk Union in Chiba, I wish I knew how the hell it ended up there. Although now that I think about it, Was (Not Was) is the kind of weird-ass bizarre band that would become popular in Japan, especially in the 80s, so I guess that I shouldn’t be all that surprised that I keep seeing their singles turn up here.

Janet Jackson
I Get Lonely (TNT Remix)
I Get Lonely (TNT Bonus Beat Remix)
I Get Lonely (Jam & Lewis Feel My Bass Mix)
I Get Lonely (Jason Vs. Janet – The Remix Sessions – Part 2)
I Get Lonely (Jason’s Special Sauce Dub)
These have been sitting on my hard drive for over a year now, don’t know why.

Bad English and PWEI

July 21st, 2014

It was a three-day holiday weekend here in Japan – which means extra work for me. Yeah, I know it’s counter-intuitive, just roll with it okay?

As such, I’m beat, and I really don’t have a lot to say about tonight’s music other than that I like it, you should like it, and I hope you enjoy it. So instead, here’s a collection of bad English I’ve heard from students since I started working as an English instructor in January

  • “My daughter loved school, she pleasured herself.”
  • “I find pleasure in your lesson.”
  • “How long are you?” (I HEAR THIS EVERYDAY AND IT’S ALWAYS FUNNY)
  • “How much height do you have? I don’t have much height.”
  • “I am a trick!”
  • “I like to watch football, the play is very HOT!”
  • “I potato dinner.”
  • “I like black music!”

And the best things I’ve heard:

  • “You are big like Totoro, you are big and soft.” (AW FUCK THAT’S SOME CUTE SHIT)
  • “You are so great!” (He meant tall, but I didn’t stop him)
  • “I want to hear what you say about all music.”
  • “I need you to tell me what these Meat Loaf song titles mean.”

That last one was from a 68 year old woman by the way. Wagnerian rock lives in Japan.

Pop Will Eat Itself
Wise Up! Sucker (7″ Version)
Orgyone Stimulator
Can U Dig It (Riffsmix)
I can dig it. These come from the 12″ single to Wise Up! Sucker. The 12″ mix is on that, but you can get that on just about every digital music store, so grab it there instead.

New Order
New Order Megamix
Off a bootleg 12″ single. Don’t remember any of the details sorry.

Bakersfield Boogie Boys WTF

July 17th, 2014

bakers

Bakersfield Boogie Boys
Okie From Muskogee
Get Off My Cloud
I Get Around
Flying Tigers
Okay, so this is a thing.

Don’t know much about this one, I bought it in Pittsburgh several months before I headed off to Japan. I can’t even remember why. Probably because it was stupid.

Yeah, that’s probably why. That’s why I buy a lot of things.

I guess this would be early electro? Maybe early electro combined with some new wave, post-punk and art-rock thrown in together. All mixed with some Dr. Demento style humor as well.

What I’m saying is, it’s fucking weird.

There are almost no performance credits on the album, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would suspect that two of the group’s members were Richard Foos and Harold Bronson – the co-founders of Rhino Entertainment, which was previously a novelty record label before becoming the world’s goto re-issue label. They’re both credited as producers on the LP’s limited linear notes and they both contributed to a few other novelty and comedy records of the era.

The only performer credited at all on the album is Shari Famous, the vocalist for the covers of “Get Off My Cloud” and “I Get Around.” When searching for info on her online I found that her full name is Shari Famous Foos, so I assume that she is/was Richard Foos wife. She also was in a shitload of never-made-it groups during the early years of punk, as this interview with another punk also ran, Rich La Bonte, points out.

If you couldn’t gather from the song titles, the first three tracks on this EP are covers, with “Flying Tigers” being the only original track (at least I think it is). That last track actually features some pretty good guitar work, and some of the strangest lyrics I’ve ever heard (“plastic waffles of my dreams”).

The next time someone says to me “Oh, you live in Japan? That place is so weird, right?” I’m going to show them this.

 

Janet Lauper

July 16th, 2014

So, quick question for yinz (that’s Pittsburgh for “y’all).

I’ve been posting a lot of Japanese and/or game music lately. Are any of yinz interested in that stuff at all? I’m always surprised when those posts seem to bring me in less traffic/comments than my silly 80s and dance remixes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pet Shop Boys, Cyndi Lauper and Prince just as much (okay, way more) than the next guy, but I kind of like posting the Japanese stuff more, mostly because no one is doing it, but also because I feel there are a billion amazing great Japanese artists from the 80s that no one outside of Japan know about.

So, when you come here do you just skim the artist names and then close the tab if you don’t recognize them? Or do you download stuff you’ve never heard before just see check it out?

Of course, this is my blog and your answers to those questions might be entirely meaningless, but it’s nice to get input.

Now silly remixes of 80s dance music.

Janet Jackson
Nasty (Extended Mix)
Nasty (Instrumental)
Nasty (A Capella)
The second-hottest Janet Jackson song, with the number one obviously being If. I don’t know when I bought this or recorded it, but I’m shocked and disappointed in myself that it has been sitting on my hard drive for over a year now without me posting it. My apologies.

Cyndi Lauper
Time After Time (Special Remix 1)
Time After Time (Special Remix 2)
So a few months ago Epic re-released Cyndi’s seminal 1983 debut album She’s So Unusual. I reviewed it and basically called it a travesty of a release, with shit bonus tracks that focused too much on “EDM” modern-day remixes instead of the vintage mixes that fans have been clamoring over for years.

Someday I’m going to record high-quality vinyl rips of all the mixes they excluded (including the various “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” mixes). Until then, here are some weird DJ-only mixes of another great Lauper classic.

Disco Space Invaders! Mario Bros.! Wow! Exclamation Points!

July 15th, 2014

Disco Space Invaders

disco

Funny Stuff (Seriously, that’s the credited artist)
Disco Space Invaders
Dancing Cats
Disco Space Invaders is not game music per say. In fact, it barely has anything to do with the game from which it was allegedly inspired. The title track only features sound effects from the game for a few brief seconds before diverging completely into an entirely unrelated (and entirely amazing) disco track. And from what I can tell, the hilariously-titled b-side “Dancing Cats” has absolutely nothing to do with anything (except for dancing cats).

However, it did come out in 1979, one year before the first Pac-Man children’s records were released in the states; two years before the similar-in-tone “Pac-Man Fever,” and several years before Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Haruomi Hosono would release the first proper video game music single – Super Xevious Hardcore Mix. As such, Disco Space Invaders holds the dubious distinction of being the very first game music-themed release.

It’s historical significance far outweighs its musical quality. But if you enjoy idiotic disco as much as I do (AND DO I), then you’ll probably find some joy in this.

The sleeve for Disco Space Invaders surprisingly has full production credits, complete and in English. I did a search of the people who worked on it, hoping that they would include some pioneer of Japanese electronic music or perhaps a YMO associate, but I don’t think anyone who worked on this went onto do anything of note.

Also, I really hope that thing on the cover is supposed to a mushroom-shaped alien or something.

 

Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack

mario

Koji Kondo
Super Mario Bros. Theme
Super Mario Bros. Theme (Orchestra Version)
Both of these tracks are from a 7″ single that’s simply titled Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. This came out in 1986, and was one of many Mario-themed musical releases to be released that year. I’m fairly certain this was the first one though, and it was also probably the first record put out by Nintendo, although many would follow in the late 80s, as it was really a prime time for game music in Japan.

The first track is exactly what you think it is, a straight-up rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme. Its different than the one that’s included on the Famicom Music album though. Firstly, it’s much shorter, only including the music from the first stage. Additionally, it features no game sound effects, it’s just music. Oddly enough, it doesn’t end with the stage complete fanfare, instead ending with the music that plays when Mario dies.

The b-side is interesting. While the direct translation of the track is “Orchestra Version,” there’s really not much orchestral about it. I think I hear some chimes in there somewhere, but it’s pretty much a souped up electronic version of the original theme. It’s really different than other arranged versions of the Mario theme that I’ve heard, and it’s actually pretty damn great. I hope they re-use it at some point.

Sadly this release doesn’t feature any linear notes, so I can’t tell you who worked on it. However, it did include a rad poster and some amazing stickers, so check them out!

20140715_212233

Full size poster. Very cool.

20140715_212254

Game shots obviously taken by someone pointing a camera at a TV.

20140715_212309

STICKERS!