Jul 19, 2014

Crazy Japanese Kids, Shirley On B'way, Plus Julie And Friends Go Cha-Cha And A Roux Recipe Secret Song!

In the late 90's, I was all over Pizzicato 5 - or P5, for those in the know - a gleefully screwy Japanese group that was labeled, in America, at least, as "electro," though I liked the label I once heard a DJ give them, "electro fizzy-pop," because I thought it best described their freakishly happy music.

I didn't get them at first, not until a friend told me to think of them as the musical equivalent of Godard gone loopy (and without the politics). That sounds pretentious, I know, but it's really not, because in a similar vein to Godard, Pizzicato 5 grabs at every bouncy, disreputable element of pop music, and turns them into something glittery and new - and way beyond camp or mere satire. That's there, of course, yet it's their breathless sense of fun-fun-fun at any cost that really makes listening to them such a blast.

Whether or not they have anything else to say beyond fun-fun-fun, I'm not sure, because I don't understand Japanese, but I'll wager the lyrics are just as giggly-glittery as the music given song titles like "Weekend!" and "Rolls Royce." Their few American-released CDs were thrown-together compilations, and like most groups, the music is best enjoyed in its original context. One of my favorites is 1988's "Bellisima!" The slogan for the CD is "Let's Get Stoned With Pizzicato 5!" You really ought to, though even without herbal aid, it's pure delight.

Ten years later, their music became even more deliriously batty - or to continue the band's drug reference, they went from weed to heroin. Wheeeeee! It's almost impossible to keep a straight face when you're listening to "Playboy & Playgirl" (and I don't recommend you try) (just surrender).

Sadly, the group disbanded in 2001, but various members have gone on to create wonderful music, including Miss Maki Nomiya, seen below performing in what I believe are tiny, knitted squares of Reynolds Wrap and a polarized car visor (because why not?). 

Her 2005 CD "Party People" is exactly what you think it will be (thank goodness); a hyper-stylized collection of sleek dance songs with 80's-inspired beats and grooves. Plus her voice seems to have no real limits to what it can do. She's like an up-to-the-minute Lady Miss Kier - a soulful, believably earth-bound element amidst all the electro beeps and blurps. 

Remember Julie London? We talked about her last week being all sexy 'n' stuff, though below, she looks a bit zonked, like she just woke up with a killer hangover, turned to the guy next to her and asked, "And who the hell are you?"

Julie obviously downed some coffee before singing on "Cha-Cha De Amor," a fabulous compilation of cha-cha numbers with Yma Sumac, Dean Martin, Les Baxter, Perez Prado and so many-many more. When you're having a dinner party, this is the perfect accompaniment for appetizers. No, really. It's lively without being distracting and happy without being annoying. And, yes, I've given it a party test-run, and plan to play it again at a little soiree me and my Cuban Luvuh are having tomorrow night. So if you hear cha-cha music, come on over. I always make too much!

Meanwhile, see how young Shirley Jones looks below? Like, really young-young. She's almost fetal!

Shirley's led quite the life (even if Joan Collins says otherwise), and yet, I normally don't enjoy her singing. Yet after listening to the genuinely sweet 1959 LP "With Love From Hollywood," which she did with her then-husband Jack Cassidy, I now know why. I actually like Shirley's voice, I just don't like hearing all those painfully sticky-sweet Rogers & Hammerstein songs she usually performs (come at me in the comments, R & H-heads. I'm battle-scared from this opinion and don't plan to stop now).

Interestingly, Shirley's voice is ageless, but Jack's voice sounds very much of its time, when men all sang in a sort of low-pitched "woo-woo-woo" fashion (and maybe that's why I enjoy female singers more than male. The woman, for the most part, aren't beholden to the styles of their era). At any rate, this is a sunny, lighter-than-light confection - and a Cheerfully Shirley Lossless Exclusive! Perfect for dessert and after-dinner drinks? Hmmm.

The Secret Song File doesn't just throw a good dinner party, she goes to it, which is another way of saying that she makes as much as possible beforehand so she can spend time bewitching her guests. Still, she always makes her roux fresh, especially if it's for pasta. But there's another kind of roux, dont'cha know - and it sings.

This roux hasn't released anything new for a while, so her latest collection is something of an event. Is it as good as her last? It might be. It's growing on me. Which means it's probably as good, if not better, but not as instantly ear-candy-ish as the former. But whatever. A good roux always adds something special to any occasion. Except for when party guests won't leave. Have you ever had that happen? We have. Some people just can't take a hint.

Roux vs. bechamel vs. mornay. I just can't decide!

Comment below, if you like, and, yes, I have more wine. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts! You should youtube "Jack Cassidy" and "Dolores Gray". They do a medley together, including some solos. He does a lovely "Love Walked In", which shows off a wide range to his voice - not just low "woo woos".

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hey, thanks for the tip, Anon, I think I will (though admittedly, primarily for Dolores ;)).

tony said...

Nope. Julie was gazing with envy at those "dig-those-crazy" outfits of P5!
btw: Thanks for Cha-Cha de amor.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I think you’re right about that, Tony. And you’re welcome. ;)

Faze said...

I loved Pizzacato 5 in the 90s and I'm looking forward to what you've got here. And, hey, I'm one of the R&H fan -- but I won't come at 'ya. You've got exquisite taste in general and must have your reasons. But you really should read Shirley Jones recent autobiography, which is basically a daffy tour of her sex life. Jack Cassidy still seems to be the love of her life, even though she paints him as perfectly awful in more ways than you could imagine. I intend to seek out Cassidy's version of "Love Walked In" referenced by the first commenter above -- mainly because it's my favorite Gershwin song and I could hear a new version every day.

Oh, and I know this look: "like she just woke up with a killer hangover, turned to the guy next to her and asked, "And who the hell are you?""

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thanks for not coming at me for R&H. It's my failing, I'm sure of it. Maybe it's because the movie versions of their shows, with the exception of "The Sound Of Music," are so clumsy and stage-bound (to me). And, yes, I've heard that Shirley has quite the saucy new autobio and I plan to get my grubby little paws on it soon! :D

Larry said...

It seems Shirley & Jack have disappeared both literally (the link est mort) and figuratively (they were once so famous). When you have time a re-up would be much appreciated.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Quandary solved! They're back! Enjoy!

Larry said...

Thanks for reposting Shirley & Jack.

I'm wondering if you have Miss Maki Nomiya's first CD? I have that, and much more in the stacks from a lifetime of record and CD collecting. I'd like to give back. Do you have a rare audio wishlist?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I don't have a rare wish list, but let me give this some thought. What a tempting notion! Thank you!

Larry said...

The last album Shirley & Jack recorded for Columbia was not released at the time.

A year or so ago fans were finally able to hear it via a legitimate CD-R release.

I mention this not only because the music is good., but because the cover is fabulous. Hopefully this link to it will work for you: http://newimages.bwwstatic.com/upload10/750017/Album%20Artwork.jpeg

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Now that's a cover that deserves framing.

Corto Maltese said...

Hie !
the last link is dead ..

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Which one? Shirley Jones or the Secret Song?