Oct 15, 2016
Towa, Towa, Towa, Plus A Rare Eugenie And A Punk Radio Secret Song!
Do you know Towa Tei, the straight-faced, yet festively posed, Japanese electro-music maestro pictured above? I bet you do, even if you don't know him by name.
If you were alive in the early 1990s and listened to Deee-Lite's "Grove Is In The Heart," then you know Towa, who was an integral part of that group and crucial to their beat-heavy, loop-de-loop sound. Unfortunately, the group didn't get along too well - don't you hate when that happens? - and they parted ways, with Towa being the first to vacate.
And get this. He's the only one in the group who's continued to have a thriving music career. There's no one quite like Towa. He goes beyond electro or pop or jazz or bossa nova - all of which he incorporates - to create his own otherworldly music. Plus, his songs are just plain fun. If you're unfamiliar with him, start off with his 1995 debut, the now classic "Future Listening," here in a gorgeously remastered, 2-CD edition, which includes collaborations with Bebel Gilberto, Joi Cardell and Pizzicato Five vocalist Maki Nomiya. It's groove-a-licious, I promise.
Another favorite of mine is his 2005 LP "Flash," which has ditties like "Summertime Samurai," a wonderful track with diminutive Aussie pop princess Kylie Minogue on lead vocals, as well as collaborations on several tracks with Fantastic Plastic Machine.
2011's fantastic "Sunny" has Towa collaborating with Berlin vocalist and sound designer Taprikk Sweezee, singer (and model) Kiko Mizuhara and many more. If anything, Towa reaches new, dizzying heights with "Sunny," and it's best exemplified by the track "Melancholic Sunshine," a what-the-hell-am-I-listenting-to? mix of reggae, jazz and industrial house - yet somehow it works like magic.
Let's slip back in time, m'k? Some big band and jazz singers get lost with time, which is a shame. Case in point is Eugenie Baird, pictured below in one of the very few pictures now available of her (besides her LP covers).
Though very few know of her now, she was justly celebrated in her day. At that time, the likes of Dorothy Killgallen, Ed Sullivan, and countless others, sang her praises, while music critic and jazz drummer George T. Simon wrote that she had "the prettiest voice I've ever heard." Billboard seemed flat-out stunned by her looks. They complimented her singing, of course, but mostly talked about her looks, variously referred to her as "wowza" or "eye-opening" or "scorching." She was not above taking the hint, as you can from on the Downbeat cover below. Oh, and here's one to scratch your head over; she once played The Strand on a bill with Lenny Bruce. Because why not?
In 1959, relatively late in her career, she released "Eugenie Baird Sings, Dukes Boys Play, Ellington" - a Euphoric Eugenie Cheerful Exclusive! It's a perfectly wonderful set in which she performs from Ellington's songbook and slays on songs like "Mood Indigo" and "In A Sentimental Mood." But it's "Lush Life" and "Solitude" which really stand out, both of them a tour-de-force of acting-in-song in which she lives each and every note as they fall from her lips. She really does deserve to be be rediscovered.
Things were pretty punk rock at The Secret Song File's high school prom - which wasn't that long ago. People died, cars exploded, pigs blood was splattered. Normal, everyday, teenage hi-jinx, amirite?
Speaking of, back in the late 1980s, The Secret Song File was surprised when a certain green-ish music group was introduced to the public as "punk rock." Oh, hahahahahaha! Maybe a cosmeticized version of punk rock, but whatever; they churned out good-to-sometimes-great rock and were always welcome. And now they're back with a spanking new CD. How is it? Pretty damn good, actually. It ain't punk rock, of course, but whoever thought they were?
Say, "boo!" in the comments, if you like!