Song of the Day: Tatsuro Yamashita “Sparkle”
Kicking off what many will argue is the greatest album of the Japanese City Pop genre, Tatsuro Yamashita‘s “Sparkle” is an ebullient and bouncy funk/ disco romp. Released in 1982, Yamashita‘s For You was a perfect culmination of the genre to date. While several of his earlier albums, in particular 1977’s Spacy and 1980’s Ride On Time had already been important pioneering works of City Pop, For You, took everything that worked and turned it up to an ’11’. Combining sound musicianship, gossamer pop craft, an undeniable knack for a hook and a powerful, clear singing voice, Yamashita made the quintessential Japanese disco LP. It even boasted an iconic cover. “Sparkle” in a way even perfectly distills everything else that was to come on the rest of the LP that followed. If that chicken-scratch guitar riff, horn stab and bass groove that kicks off the track doesn’t immediately grab you, I don’t know what will.
Singer-songwriter and producer, Tatsuro Yamashita was born in Tokyo in 1953. He burst onto the Japanese pop scene in 1972, apparently an already fully formed talent. Influenced largely by American music including jazz, soul and the pop (a particular favorite of his included The Beach Boys, who he repeatedly covered in his early career), Yamashita has remained a constant and popular presence in the Japanese music scene ever since. He is married to fellow J-Pop royalty, Mariya Takeuchi and had written songs for and produced her records as well as his own. Yamashita has worked and recorded both in his native Japan as well as in the United States, with several of his popular records featuring work by top American funk and disco session musicians in Los Angeles and New York. As well as a musician, Yamashita is also an avid record collector and the DJ of a well-known and long-running Tokyo FM radio show called “Tatsuro Yamashita’s Sunday Songbook”.
Bonus! An epic live funk medley of Yamashita‘s hits “Silent Screamer” and “Bomber”: