Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Found Miyoshi at Joe's Mac

The first planned stop I made when I drove down to the Klang Valley last week was at the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya, practically a stone's throw away from the Cititel Midvalley. It was the middle of the week and I knew the Amcorp Mall wouldn't be filled with temporary stall owners hawking their old vinyl records.

But I knew that Joe's Mac would be around. Why not? Joe has permanent residence there. His shop is on the lower ground floor and wasn't difficult to find once I descended the escalator. Found boxes upon boxes of old second-hand vinyl records on the floor outside the shop. I've been here twice or thrice before, and each time I went away with some hard-to-find treasures. Would I be lucky again?

I sat myself on the small stools and went through the pile of records in the boxes. First round went by. Mmm, yes, there were some nuggets worth acquiring. But some of the prices were too high, forcing me to train my sights on cheaper stuff.

Went through the boxes again a second time and picked up what I believed were five reasonably priced items. Then...while flicking through one of the boxes, I saw something that I had missed earlier. How could I? Immediately I removed it from the box, despite no other person looking through the records. This one, I must have: a record by Miyoshi Umeki.

I know, I know; I already have Miyoshi Sings For Arthur Godfrey, passed down to me from my father's collection, and the songs here in this album, simply titled Miyoshi but with the blurb "singing star of Rodgers and Hammerstein's" Flower Drum Song", looked like reproductions from the first album. But I had to have it. Miyoshi's songs are a rarity indeed.

Today, I finally had the time to put the record through my washing process before I could play it. My first surprise: the recordings sounded different from the other album. Maybe I should bring out that other album to play again and compare the differences.

Side One: Sayonara (From "Sayonara"), If I Give My Heart To You, China Nights (Shina No Yoru), I'm In The Mood For Love, My Baby's Comin' Home, How Deep Is The Ocean (How High Is The Sky)
Side Two: Slowly Go Out Of Your Mind, Teach Me Tonight, Hanna Ko San, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, Over The Rainbow, The Little Lost Dog.

There were liner notes on the cover too. Before I wear out the cover any more than now - it was already in bad shape when I picked it up - perhaps I should reproduce the notes here.
Miyoshi Umeki, the tiny Oriental nightingale, visually possesses the fragile beauty and delicate grace of a Japanese print, while vocally she displays all the modern technique and polished phrasing of a really hep occidental canary.

Arthur Godfrey first introduced Miyoshi to American audiences on his CBS TV "Talent Scouts" contest at the beginning of 1956. The doll-like performer - attired in a quaint kimona - astonished both the famous redhead and his audience by singing a sultry version of "How Deep Is The Ocean" in perfect English, enhanced by the merest trace of an exotic accent. She won by an overwhelming vote, and subsequently appeared on Godfrey's daily CBS shows for five weeks in succession.

Miyoshi handles an English lyric most effectively. The material includes such typical Tin Pan Alley standards as "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Teach Me Tonight," "Over The Rainbow," "I'm In The Mood For Love," and "How Deep Is The Ocean."

Born on the small Japanese island of Hokkaido, youngest in a family of nine children  - Miyoshi was the first Japanese girl to sing American songs in Tokyo. After perfecting her English by listening to American records, Miyoshi first sang with a U.S. Army jazz band on a 15-minute radio show and later joined Tokyo's top jazz outfit, the Tsunoda Sextette ("The Benny Goodman of Japan") as band vocalist.

In 1955, Miyoshi - by then an established Japanese star of records, motion pictures, night clubs and the theater - decided it was time to try her luck in America. Under the management of Art Whiting (whose marine corporal son spotted her act in Tokyo and advised his father to sign her) Miyoshi has made phenomenal career strides in America.

Following her impressive debut on radio and TV, Mercury Records inked her to a contract and her first single platter for the label was received most enthusiastically by disk jockeys and record reviewers across the country. Most recently, she won the coveted Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in the film "Sayonara." Miyoshi sings the poignant love song of the same title in this album.

In view of the progress the petite thrush has made in her brief lifetime, it seems only fitting that her lovely and unusual name - Miyoshi - means "Beautiful Life."


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