O Genki Desu Ka (2LP)
Label: Japan Blues
Lily’s early life runs parallel to an untold story of post-war Japan, that of the marginalised hafu – children of half Japanese / half foreign parents. Likely to be a target, a vessel for the bitterness, from the humiliation of the American Occupation, to the buried guilt of Japan’s own atrocities, enacted on their Asian neighbours. Her troubled formative years – an absent father, and losing her mother in her teens – possibly contributed to the development of the bluesy edge of her vocal style, or maybe it was the smoke from the jazz bar her mother ran.
As with many outsiders of the 60s and early 70s, she turned up in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, a famed spot for many a writer, actor, artist and musician. It was here that her songs first aired and she was swiftly booked to record her music. With a groove set in stone by her Bye-Bye Session Band – later including Ryuichi Sakamoto and jazz keyboardist Hiroshi Sato – this selection covers her 70s period, with strong seams of soul, funk, touches of folk- and space-rock, and her signature (in Japan) heartbreaking ballads.
Sounds evocative of the period, of Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Cymande et al, all with Lily’s voice make her music unique.
Compiled by Howard Williams, whose Japanese music show Japan Blues has been a mainstay on NTS Radio since 2014. He has released several retrospectives of Japanese music for various record labels, covering 70s female gangster soundtracks (Killing Melody); 50s rockabilly (Nippon Rock’n’Roll); surf guitar and funk rock (Nippon Guitars); soul, funk and disco (Lovin’ Mighty Fire), and the jazz singer Maki Asakawa, after co-compiling Moondog Viking of Sixth Avenue.
With fold out liner notes insert, written by Lily’s original producer, Yukiji Teramoto and translated by Alan Cummings, with the photography of Jin Tamura.