Monday, January 19, 2015

Koto Music of Today

Rumiko Koyanagi does not sing on this recording nor does she play the koto. However, the songs on this record were all made famous by Rumiko during the early 1970s. As the record was released in 1973, she would have been at the height of her popularity in Japan.
The music is known as enka which was revived in the modern form around 1969. The style of enka refers to many aspects of traditional Japanese music blended with modern instruments. This creates some interesting contrasts. Bamboo flutes or Shakuhachi are played, followed by piano, koto with oboe, electric guitar, sweeping strings, gypsy violin, folk guitar rythms, harpsicord and even sleigh bells. Most songs are sentimental ballads that draw on a traditional, idealised or romantisized aspect of Japanese culture and attitudes.
So why is Rumiko's singing replaced by a koto? It could be that the album was put together for an English speaking audience. The orchestral arrangements by Kenichiro Morioka are the actual backing tracks for Rumiko's hit songs. It would have been easy to find a musician to play koto - karaoke style.
Recorded in Japan
Arranged by Morioka Kenichiro 森岡賢一郎
Songs originally sung by Rumiko Koyanagi 小柳ルミ子
Songs written by Hirao Masaaki 平尾昌晃
Advent of Spring written by Morita Koichi 森田公一
A Folded Paper Crane written by Hama Keisuke 浜圭介
Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guitar Concerto - Super Star Sound

Liner Notes:
Harald Winkler was born in Villach (Austria) on May 31st, 1947. His father was a violinist, and it was, therefore, not surprising that his son showed interest in music very early in his life. Contrary to his parents’ hopes, however, he did not want to learn the violin but preferred the guitar. At the age of six he was sent to a college of music to learn the violin as main-subject and the guitar as a second subject.
He progressed so well that at the age of twelve he already gave his first violin concerto. He went on to the State Conservatorium and was the youngest member of the Youth Symphony Orchestra.
At the age of seventeen, whilst serving in the army, he belonged to the Music Corps in Kaernten as percussionist and after that wanted to see the world.
He joined a very good Combo and travelled the whole of Europe. In 1969 he took part in a Young Talent Contest of the Z.D.F. in which he was the only instrumental soloist among the finalists. Far more important, famous Max Greger who had arranged the musical background of this event was so impressed by this young solo-guitarist that he engaged him straight away for his band. Harald Winkler is now a very much sought-after artist as studio guitarist and as soloist at great Gala Evenings. He also writes his own music, texts and many special arrangements.
It is far above average talent, combined with solid musical training, if an instrument is mastered to such a degree and with such perfection as his guitar by Harald Winkler.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yamaha Superstar - Koichi Oki

Yamaha Superstar - Koichi Oki
Liner Notes:
Koichi Oki The tracks on this album “Yamaha Superstar” were specially created for the Yamaha EX42 by Koichi Oki, the world’s leading Yamaha Electone player.
On this album Koichi Oki uses many of the sounds which are exclusive to the Yamaha Electone and which are revolutionizing the field of electronic organ sounds.
The first Yamaha organs—seventy-eight reed organs—to be exported to Britain were shipped in 1892 only five years after Torakusu Yamaha built Japan’s very first prototype. Since that time the company, renamed Nippon Gakki Co. Ltd., has gone from strength to strength and while its musical instruments have steadily improved in range and excellence, it has also diversified into many other fields. Not so long ago, after all, the name “Yamaha” in Britain meant motor cycles and not musical instruments at all. Had our climate been other than it is we should know the name for its sno-cats and and skis made of the revolutionary new Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic, while boats and archery equipment of the same material obviously have a great future here.
It is, however, in the sphere of music that the Company’s greatest efforts have been expended and here is to he found its greatest achievement.
In the organ field Yamaha have scored many “firsts”, most notable being their revolutionary flat speaker based on the principle of a piano soundboard. It is to this speaker which enables the sound of the organ to travel across its surface that the Yamaha “Natural Sound” must be attributed.
Turning to the EX42, the scope of the organ is such that it gives ample expression to any type of playing from popular melodies, so ably demonstrated by Koichi Oki, to classical.
No other organ in the world has Yamaha’s exclusive “Touch Response” combined with the again exclusive “Touch Vibrato” which, for the first time, enables an organist fully to express mood and to translate the force in his fingers into volume and tone colour.
Koichi Oki recorded for AD-RHYTHM Records, London by courtesy of YAMAHA FOUNDATION FOR MUSIC EDUCATION, Japan.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hit-Guitar - Karl-Heinz Kästel Und Seine Gitarren

Hit-Guitar - Karl-Heinz Kästel Und Seine Gitarren
Hit-Guitar - Karl-Heinz Kästel Und Seine Gitarren
Every so often, an album cover attracts my attention, not for its visual appeal, but for its blandness. Dispite the simplicity of design, the recording reveals a treasure trove of hits from the 60's. Taking into consideration that a few of the tracks were hits in 1967, it would be quite safe to say that this record, "Hit-Guitar", was made around 1968. The sound is German. Close listening - such clean precise sounds that seem to be a well-known feature of German record engineering.
What kind of album is it? A collection of party medleys fuelled by wine and beer. But wait, it's about to become very strange. If wierd and unusual music is your thing, look no further. Track 5, the "Latin Party" brings instant madness into your living room.
The backing singers are one of the standout aspects of this album. Listen for the whispered "Jackson, Jackson, Jackson" on track 4. Also, listen for the interesting vocal effects mimicking brass instruments in "Immer Nur An Eine Denken" at the beginning of track 7.
Yet there is no information whatsoever about Karl-Heinz Kastel, the orchestra or the backing singers. Internet searches bare nothing at all. What information is available shows that at least three other albums have been produced featuring him, "Hit Guitar 2", "Hit Guitar 3" and "Guitar in Gold".

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pipe Organ Plus - Passport to Romance

Pipe Organ Plus - Passport to Romance
Pipe Organ Plus - Passport to Romance
Liner Notes:
Monty Kelly
Monty Kelly
Monty Kelly was the natural choice of orchestrator and conductor to tackle the gargantuan task of writing the scores for this first album in the Pipe Organ Plus series.
To quote Monty — "Every problem I have encountered in years of arranging for films and recordings presented itself in this project. However, the end result is the most satisfying of my career."
Monty's background in music started as a trumpet player going through the playing musicians' best grammar school—night clubs, ballrooms, theatres and staff band radio work. He left C.B.S. in San Francisco to join the Paul Whiteman band as 1st trumpet and arranger. After a stint in the Army Ordinance Band with the late Skinny Ennis, he joined the Bob Hope Show as assistant musical director and arranged for all the top guest personalities—Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Tony Martin and scores of others. In the early 1950's Monty moved to New York as a free lance arranger and worked at N.B.C. His first hit recording with label credits was Al Martino's "Here In My Heart." He then followed up with his own hit instrumentals "Tropicana" and "Three O'Clock In The Morning." The album sales of the Monty Kelly Orchestra established him as one of the finest "pops" orchestrators and conductors in the world.
Eydie Gorme, Bob Manning and Anita Bryant owe no small measure of their success to Monty. His orchestration genius was responsible for a 3-million long-play record sale of "Soul of Spain" with "101" Strings.
Monty made a complete study of the theatre organ (an orchestra within itself) and after exhaustive research of all the audio technical problems of marrying orchestra and pipe organ, has written what could be considered one of the most breath-taking instrumental albums ever recorded.
Monty has been commissioned to write the scores to six more Pipe Organ Plus albums to be recorded in the U.S., England, Germany and France in 1965.

Bob Hunter
Bob Hunter
Robert Hunter, a native of Los Angeles, attended the University of South­ern California, and studied with John Crown, Mario Castell­nuovo-Tedesco and Claudio Arrau. While primarily a pianist, he has many times selected the pipe organ to augment his varied career.
Bob was for several years assistant organist at St. James Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, and also scored numerous silent films with pipe organ for the Hollywood Film Classic Exchange.
He made his formal debut as a pianist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in November, 1948. He joined the Robert Shaw Chorale as pianist and organist, and later became an RCA Victor recording artist, making numerous albums released under his name. The career of this brilliant artist was inter­rupted by two years' service in the United States Armed Forces.
Following his return to civilian life, he joined the Freddy Martin Orchestra. Bob recorded the "Pagan Poem" by Loeffler in 1957, with Leopold Stokowski on the Capitol label. He became arranger, conductor, and pianist in 1958, for Carol Channing through the fall of 1962, then he joined George Bums, in the same capacity.
During these same years, he has played both publicly and privately for Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, President and Mrs. Truman, President and Mrs. Eisenhower, President and Mrs. Kennedy, President and Mrs. Johnson and Lord and Lady Ormsby-Gore, the British Ambassador. Presently living in Los Angeles, Bob will soon be giving his second formal concert for the American Theatre Organ Enthusiasts in the Southern California area.
Robert Hunter has received enthusiastic support from Mr. Richard Simonton, whose beautiful Wurlitzer pipe organ was used to record this album, and who is, in the main, responsible for the restoration and preservation of pipe organs throughout the United States.

The Recording
The complex task of recording the orchestra tracks was assigned to Bill Putnam of United Recording in Hollywood.
Recorded on 4 track Ampex Series 300-4 machines on 11/2 mill 1/2" 3M tape, the mix was picked up by 17 condenser microphones of varying characteristics. Studio A of United was chosen for its exceptional acoustics and separation control potential. The problems of over-dubbing the organ on location were compounded by the necessity of maintain­ing a constant temperature control in the organ chambers so as to achieve perfect pitch with the pre-recorded orchestra tracks. The orchestra tracks were remixed from their various sections into tracks 1 and 4. The organ was then stereo "self-synched" to the background on tracks 2 and 3. The final four tracks were then remixed down to stereo and mono composites respectively.

The Instrument
The original organ was Opus #2035, built March 1929 for Paramount Picture Studios, Holly­wood. It was a 3-Manual of 19 ranks and an exceptionally fine organ designed specifically for recording purposes, and was installed on the scoring sound stage. James Nuttall was responsible for the design, installation and tonal regulation. It was considered the finest recording organ on the West Coast.
The organ was used intermittently until 1931, when it was removed, crated and stored. In 1942 it was sold to NBC in San Francisco and installed there. It was removed in November 1953 to make room for expanded TV facilities, and installed with additions in its present location.
The additions to the organ came mainly from a 3-Manual 14 rank Wurlitzer Organ, Opus #1732, installed by the factory at Treasure Island, San Francisco Bay, to serve the needs of the 1939-40 World's Fair. Other additions were from the Wurlitzer Organ Opus #3170, built for the Coliseum Theatre, Seattle. Invaluable assistance with the final specifications, procurement of parts, factory records, and integration into one instrument came from Mr. Fanny Wurlitzer, without whose help it would not have been possible.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mr Guitar

Mr Guitar - Shoji Yokouchi
Mr Guitar - Shoji Yokouchi
(Shoji Yokouchi, November 9, 1933? - 1996) Shoji Yokouchi was a composer, arranger and guitarist. He was born in Dalian, Manchuria (northern China).

He graduated from Dalian Commercial High School and after the war, he withdrew from Dalian and returned to Kyushu, southern Japan. He began performing in a U.S. military camp in Kokura, an ancient castle town and the center of Kitakyushu. He later formed a group with Hiroshi Watanabe, Jun Furuya, and Seiji Hiraoka.

He also played as a session guitarist for Chiyo Okumura as well as Mari Nakamoto on her albums "Mari" (1977) and "Lady Bird". One of his most well-known representative works is "Blonde On The Rocks".
Translated from Japanese Wikipedia

Mr Guitar was recorded in the Toshiba Studios in Japan, and according to Discogs this particular record was made in Australia by EMI and released in 1967. Shoji's family name is clearly spelt incorrectly either by mistake or on purpose. The music he creates with his backing group Blue Dreamers, is easy listening Latin guitar. Listen closely for the warm bass lines and atmospheric flashes of brilliance.