One of most popular jazz singers in Japan, Yasuko Agawa’s late ’80s release was originally released as a promo only. It’s finally reissued here on 12″ with remastering by Kuniyuki Takahashi. “Lowdown” is a house cover of Boz Scaggz. It’s a Japanese house classic. “You Bring The Sun Out” is a super mellow electric lovers rock.
Studio Mule present a reissue of BGM’s Back Ground Music, originally released in 1980. The debut album from Japanese living legend, electronic music producer Takayuki Shiraishi. Released on legendary experimental music label in Osaka, Vanity Records, run by Yuzuru Agi when Shiraishi was high school student. Shiraishi was influenced by the music of post punk, new wave, kraut rock — this album is his unique mixture of that kind music style. One of the most in-demand alternative music albums from japan finally reissued. Remastered from original tape and mastering by Kuniyuki Takahashi.
A reissue of Little Tree by legendary Japanese jazz guitarist Ryo Kawasaki with his band The Golden Dragon, originally released in 1980. Some of his famous works are mellow jazz fusion masterpiece Tarika Blue (1977), dance jazz classic Trinkets And Things (1978), and cosmic new wave jazz Lucky Lady (1983). Little Tree, with his band The Golden Dragon, is probably the best album for fans of wired jazz, Brazilian, Balearic music. Japanese crate digger “Chee” picked this album as his favorite album from Japan on Resident Advisor. Little Tree is the first album that Ryo Kawasaki used a self-made guitar synthesizer. Rich in variety, Little Tree includes the Japanese Brazilian jazz fusion classic “Looking Around You”, experimental guitar ambient piece “Capricho Arabe”, the cosmic fusion of “Quasar Infection”, Balearic jazz masterpiece “You Are The Sunlight”, club jazz classic “Little Tree”, folky jazz vocal “Jamiko” — there’s a lot of great songs on this album.
A reissue of Japanese singer-songwriter Nina Atsuko’s debut album, Play Room, originally released in 1983. This album is one of the most-wanted Japanese city pop albums, but it’s quite hard to find the original vinyl. Nina covered her favorite bossa nova, Latin, and American pops tunes in Japanese with the sound of ’80s urban jazz fusion. All tracks match the big Japanese city pop revival trend perfectly.
Studio Mule presents Missing Link, a collection by Japanese living legend electronic producer Takayuki Shiraishi. Missing Link is a collection of unreleased material recorded in the late ’80s. Shiraishi started his career in working with BGM, who released material on the Japanese experimental label Vanity Records. Their one and only album Back Ground Music (1980) has been one of the most in-demand Japanese new wave albums. The present album is unique mixture of dark new wave, post punk, kraut rock, and experimental electronic music.
Studio Mule presents a reissue of King Kong Paradise’s Atsusa Mo Samusamo…, originally released in 1984 on Johnny’s Disk. Johnny’s Disk was an independent jazz label run by the owner of jazz cafe Kaiunbashi No Johnny located in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The legendary label released a string of albums of high quality but down-to-earth music, spanning modern jazz, avant-garde jazz, and left-field pop. Albums such as Teru Sakamoto’s Farewell My Johnny/Left Alone and Eiji Nakayama’s Aya’s Samba (STUDIOMUL 013LP, 2019) have reached cult status among fans as some of the best works to come out of the Japanese jazz scene. Following a cult classic jazz fusion album on Bourbon Records, King Kong Paradise delivered Atsusa Mo Samusamo… an album of alternative, left-field Balearic rock that was way ahead of its time. An anomaly that sticks out in the Johnny’s Disk’s catalog, this rare record may appeal more to new wave, reggae and rock fans than jazz heads; in fact, one might not be surprised if people like DJ Harvey or Theo Parrish dropped this oddity in their sets. If one digs the kind of weirdness that’s being reissued by Music From Memory, one might find this record intriguing.
Studio Mule presents Yoshimi Ueno’s Taiko No Uminari, originally issued in 1980 on Johnny’s Disk Record. Johnny’s Disk Record is an independent jazz label run by the owner of jazz cafe Kaiunbashi No Johnny, located in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The legendary label released a string of albums of high quality but down-to-earth music, spanning from modern and avant-garde jazz to left-field pop. Albums such as Teru Sakamoto’s Farewell My Johnny / Left Alone and Eiji Nakayama’s Aya’s Samba (STUDIOMUL 013LP, 2019) have reached cult status among fans as some of the best works to come out of the Japanese jazz scene. Taiko No Uminari is the only solo record drummer Yoshimi Ueno released before passing. The album features “Sea Sound”, a hard bop number with soulful melodies and impressive saxophone playing by Yasuaki Shimizu, the folky and melancholic “Tsuchi Ningyo”, composed by labelmate Nakayama, the romantic ballad “My Spirit” by pianist Keisaku Takahashi, poly-rhythmic jam “Skip” written by Ueno himself, “K.Blues”, a bluesy tune with a bit of a New Orleans jazz vibe, and “Uzushio,” a duet between Nakayama’s bass and Ueno’s drums. Edition of 500.
Studio Mule present a reissue of Mitsuaki Katayama Trio’s First Flight, originally issued in 1979 on Johnny’s Disk Record. Johnny’s Disk Record is an independent jazz label run by the owner of jazz cafe Kaiunbashi No Johnny, located in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate prefecture, Japan. The legendary label released a string of albums of high quality but down-to-earth music, spanning from modern jazz and avant-garde jazz to left-field pop. Albums such as Farewell My Johnny/Left Alone (1980) and Aya’s Samba (1978) have reached cult status among fans as some of the best works to come out of the Japanese jazz scene. This debut album by drummer and actor Mitsuaki Katayama is a Japanese jazz masterpiece consisting of five original compositions. The no-filler album includes the tracks “Unknown Point”, a danceable jazz samba with tight and powerful drumming and the melancholic “Arizona High Way”, a tune that perfectly epitomizes what Japanese jazz is about. “It’s Over” features beautiful piano work by Kichiro Sugino, a promising pianist who tragically succumbed to a chronic illness and couldn’t fully realize his potential. Edition of 500.
Double LP version. Midnight In Tokyo is a compilation series that aims to be the perfect companion to nights in Tokyo, collecting tracks by Japanese artists that sound best at night. Vol. 2 (STUDIOMUL 006CD/LP, 2018) focused more on ’80s jazz fusion, but the latest installment, Vol. 3, picks up where Vol. 1 (STUDIOMUL 001CD/LP, 2018) left off, bringing together forgotten soul, disco, and new wave gems. The compilation opens with Japanese rare groove classic “More Sexy,” a provocative song by Yoko Hatanaka. “Kimi No Yume,” from the album Yume No Yonbai (1984) by Masumi Hara, is one of the best Balearic acid folk songs to come from Japan. “Silhouette Call” is an electric bossanova track in the vein of Antena, from a rare album called Octopussy (1982) by Yuki Nakayamate, a singer-songwriter who worked with Motoharu Sano. “Theme Of High School Student” is a dubby cut featured in the Japanese film Kougen Ni Ressha Ga Hashitta (1984), written by Atsuo Fujimoto (Colored Music), one of the key artists in the recent wave of global interest in Japanese music. “Get To Paradise” is a stone-cold funk jam by Mari Kaneko, who was known as the Janis Joplin of Shimokitazawa. Following that is one of Japan’s greatest new wave disco tracks, “Hannya”, taken from Tomoko Aran’s popular third album Fuyu-Kukan (1983) produced by Masatoshi Nishimura, who was part of Friends Of Earth with Haruomi Hosono. Masako Miyazaki, whose rendition of Seawind’s “He Loves You” is a fan favorite, puts her own spin on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy,” singing in her accent-heavy English, giving the song an undeniable character. “Watashi No Koukoku” is a certified disco-boogie classic by Junko Sakurada. The Brazilian-esque jazz fusion, “Sunshine Bright On Me” is by fusion group Kangaroo, who were often billed as “the japanese Shakatak”. “Stranger’s Night” is a synth-pop number by Maiko Okamoto, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Rah Band’s “The Shadow Of Your Love”. Electro-pop disco “Singing Lady”, off the sole album by The Fad sounds like something Giorgio Moroder could’ve cooked up. “Magic Eyes” is a disco anthem recorded by Tetsuji Hayashi’s disco project, The Eastern Gang. Following that is Japanese soul gem “Crazy Baby,” found on a rare 7″ entitled Minato No Soul by Rinda Yamamoto also composed and arranged by Tetsuji Hayashi. Closing out this collection of 14 Japanese rare groove goodies is “I’m In Love”, a bittersweet mellow dance number by Tomoko Aran.
Mule Musiq announce their new label, Studio Mule. Midnight In Tokyo Vol. 1 is a compilation of Japanese disco, boogie, and soul music. The compilation starts off with the Afro disco classic “Mi Mi Africa” by harmonica player Nobuo Yagi. “Silver Spot” is a jazzy fusion disco track taken from composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Nobuyuki Shimizu’s first album (1980), released when he was 19. The track features singer Epo. “Samba Night” is by vocalist Keisuke Yamamoto and his band Piper, from their masterpiece second album Summer Breeze (1983) — a delightful city pop number for fans of Tatsuro Yamashita. “Akogareno Sundown” is a Japanese soul classic, sung by singer Haruko Kuwana (sister of Masahiro Kuwana). Produced by Mackey Feary Band, known for the soulful classic “A Million Stars”. “Koiwa Saiko (I’m In Love)” is a mellow and groovy track by singer Aru Takamura, the great-grandchild of sculptor Kouun Takamura. It can be thought of as Japan’s answer to Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real”. “What The Magic Is To Try” is a cult electropop track by Honma Express, a project helmed by producer Kanji Honma. Hailed as Japan’s Trevor Horn, he is also known as the producer of legendary techno pop band TPO. “Colored Music” is a song by Colored Music, a duo of pianist Ichiko Hashimoto and her partner Atsuo Fujimoto. Taken from their sole album (1981), the Japanese rare groove treasure is a mesh of new wave, synth pop, and jazz influences. The dubby electronic new wave disco “Electric City” is a B side of pop idol group Shohjo-Tai & Red Bus St Project’s debut 12″ single. “Love Is The Competition” is a breezy disco jam by Okinawa-born bilingual artist Hitomi Tohyama, originally featured on her album Next Door (1983). Taken from Mariah project’s diva Yumi Murata’s first album (1979), “Krishna” is a funky and soulful rockin’ disco cut. Reminiscent of Chaka Khan’s “I Know You, I Live You”, “Live Hard, Live Free” is a song by jazz vocalist Eri Ohno who is known for her work with DJ Krush. “Rocket 88” is a melancholic disco number by singer Minnie originally released through Sapporo’s independent label Paradise Records. Closing out the 13-track compilation is Japanese disco staple “Tokyo Melody”, sung by Shoody and backed by Tetsuji Hayashi’s disco band the Eastern Gang. Compiled by Toshiya Kawasaki. Mastering by Kuniyuki Takahashi. Cover photo by Mika Kitamura.