Back on wax: Greenwood's "Sparkle" from 1985 and 2014 (AGS-027)


It's been several years now since I first interviewed bassist and bandleader Robin Kimura for the blog. We talked about all kinds of things, like the now-obsolete high school dance circuit that existed in Hawaii, about Mackey Feary and the Magic Mushroom nightclub, and of course about Greenwood's sole 7-inch, released in 1985.

The 45 features a cover of Tatsuro Yamashita's "Sparkle" on the flip, with a upbeat, playful tune called "Cheerleader Strut" on the A.

That record flopped. Robin and his band couldn't hardly give them away. It was unfortunate, too, because they had laid down a few other tracks in the studio at the time, in anticipation of following their single's success with a full length album.

Fast forward 25 years and Greenwood had reunited for a one-off concert that Robin had organized. On January 22, 2005, Greenwood took to the stage for the first "70's Nightclub Reunion Concert", which featured five bands (including theirs) from the 1970s dance scene. The concert was so successful that Robin continued to organize it annually for another 14 years.

Those concerts were mostly for the older crowd who remembered Greenwood and its counterparts playing in the nightclubs back in they day. With their children heading off to college, the musicians whose heyday was the 1970s and early 1980s finally had a chance to cut loose again. However, it was rare that any of these bands — White Light, Phase 7, Nueva Vida, Aura — performed original tunes. Instead, they'd do top hits and regional classics that the audience loved and remembered so well. (Aura might've been the only exception, their tune "When The Feeling's Right" having been so wildly popular back in the day, they had to play it again).

It was around 2009, though, that Greenwood's cover version of "Sparkle" got its groove back. A classic cut from Tatsuro Yamashita's album For You, "Sparkle" was prominently featured on DJ Muro's "Hawaiian Breaks" mixtape and caught on so quickly that Robin soon received a number emails and phone calls from Japanese collectors looking for leftover dead stock. Its popularity is probably in part due to the fact that few Tatsuro Yamashita covers exist, let alone covers in English!

So, with demand high for OG copies of "Sparkle" and stock low of the 45 (Robin found some stashed in his closet), Robin decided to repress the 45 as is, for the Japanese market. He contacted Rainbo Records where the first pressing was made, and the company was able to restore, remaster, and repress the single for them. That run ran out quickly, so a few years later with the help of Diskunion, Robin ran another repress with a Tokyo reissue label, Killer Cuts. Copies of both reissues have been tough to come across ever since.

In 2015, riding a wave of momentum from 10 years of the 70s Nightclub Reunion Concerts and the new-found appreciation from Japan, Greenwood decided to fulfill its plan from 30 years prior: record a full length album.

The band entered Pierre Grill's studio in Manoa Valley, Rendez-vous Recording. Pierre restored the tapes that Robin brought in from the original recording sessions, and together they refreshed the sound with updated vocal, guitar, and drum takes on several of the album's tunes. Songs that hadn't been previously recorded in 1985 were laid down anew.

Lost In Paradise was born with great effort on Greenwood and Pierre's part. The band, after all, has more than 10 members, so coordinating rehearsal and recording time wasn't an easy task. The album is available on LP and CD formats, as well as on Bandcamp if you know where to look. However, by now the vinyl LP is hard to come by, and secondary markets bump it up 3-4 times the original sticker price.

I've always wondered how many DJs ever play the A side, "Cheerleader Strut". It's a fun tune, but not something you'd play in a club setting.

Since the release of Lost In Paradise, I've often imagined a double sider 7" with the original 1985 version on one side and the updated 2015 version on the flip, giving DJs two options to play. In fact, I recall mentioning this idea to Robin on a phone call once, probably in 2014, and he said "sure", go ahead.

It wasn't until earlier this year that the idea finally got nudged into existence, thanks to a friend, Prince Klassen, who works at Face Records NYC. Obviously, Face Records has seen the rapturous demand for Tatsuro's albums grow in recent years thanks to the boom of interest in Japanese "city pop" music. So the idea was not a surprise, but rather a necessity to fulfill the wantlists of DJs and collectors looking for Tatsuro-related tunes. (The For You album, once easily found throughout Japan for 500 yen, is now found for at the least 5000 yen (about $50) in the country, and $100 anywhere else in the world.

So, here it is finally. AGS-027 is a double sider featuring two versions of "Sparkle": the original 1984 version that the band admittedly didn't care for because of mixing issues (but is happy that people still dig it today!), and the refreshed 2015 version from their long overdue debut album, Lost In Paradise.

Order now on the webshop or via Bandcamp.

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