To me, Crimson will always be Akina’s definitive album. Akina has a tough yet feminine style that distinguished her from the rest of the singers, but she was maturing as a singer as well, and "Crimson" definitely helped to strengthen this case. She has just endured some of the worst reviews of career with her previous album " 不思議", which was unfortunate because it was an innovative album way ahead of its time. Listened today, it does not lose any of its freshness and it is a marvel that a top artiste like Akina would constantly seek for challenges in her career instead of sticking to a winning formula. Maybe she was reeling off the surprise success of the album before that, "D404ME", which was also of a futuristic concept, which led her to move on to "不思議". Not that "不思議" was a failure. The first week sales were 94,500 copies (9.45 万枚) but the total sales was a rather dismal 46.4万枚 as compared to "D404ME", whose first week sales were 99,590 (9.96万枚) ending with 65.1万枚, making it Akina’s second best selling original album.
Proving that this was not a downturn in her career, she released a highly anticipated new album on the X’Mas Eve of 1986, "Crimson", which was a talking point at that time because of the composers of the album, making it one of the first times that a top artiste has used only female composers in an album. Enlisting the talents of 竹内まりや (Takeuchi Mariya) and 小林明子 (Kobyashi Akiko), they created a woman’s album of all time. Akina’s rendition of their songs were softer and presented a more matured and feminine sound that was previously unheard.
It was an instant hit, entering (not surprisingly) the Oricon album chart at No. 1 with sales of 105,770 copies (10.58 万枚) , the second highest first week sales of Akina’s career at that time (her career No. 1 was for "Possibility" – 109,890 copies). It may have been the disappointment of some fans with "不思議" that prompted the strong first week sales but fans embraced the album, staying at the pole position for 4 week and making it one of her best selling albums totalling 60.1万枚.
The magic of "Crimson" is evident from the first song, where it opens with the bustle of New York and the opening song "Mind Game" and moves slowly onto evergreens and classics like "駅", " 約束", "OH NO,OH YES !" and "ミック・ジャガ－に微笑みを" ending with the opening of the door and back into the city. This elegant album mostly made up of ballads and some mid tempo numbers helped showcase Akina’s versatility and new found maturity and femininity.
I will never forget the day I bought the cassette when it was released. I loved every single song and at that time, it was my first Akina album that WEA has included a booklet in the cassette. The photos were mostly black and white in conjunction with the album’s concept and were exquisitely shot. I remember calling my friend, Terence, after every song and exclaiming "Oh, my God, this is so good.", and played them through the phone with the earphone on the headset.
"Crimson" is thoroughly enjoyable and the arrangement on the last song is most original, and never repeated. It started a "love-hate" affair with 竹内まりや because it is very clear that Akina admires her very much as a songwriter and loves the songs deeply, constantly choosing them again for her concerts, but she would have felt the hurt of the comments that Mariya’s husband made in the inner sleeves of Mariya’s album "Request" when he wrote that the a top singer (not naming Akina) has sung the song "駅" badly, thus prompting him to encourage Mariya to do the song some justice. Thankfully, it was pointed out recently on Tien’s blog that he has changed his opinion and that it was the arrangement of the song that he disliked.
"駅" has long since withstood time to be the definitive song of the album and a fan’s favourite. Many other singers have covered it since, even Richard Marx, and even though it was Mariya who popularised the song, she sang it in her signature light style which to me, didn’t really suit the theme of the song, which was about the rediscovery of lost love and the final realisation that their love was still evident even though they had both moved on. Akina’s melancholic rendition on the album was perfect and I strongly recommend watching Akina’s live performance of "駅" in her 1997 Felicidad Concert, which is extremely moving.
At the pinnacle of her career, Akina has achieved another successful album that is a classic, beautiful tunes to relax and sway to different moods of any day. Today, Akina’s talent is evident, not only as a singer but also as producer of the album (another achievement), because of the timeless singles and albums that she has carved for her career. She can be truly proud of every challenge she has mastered and conquered, which is why the magic of Akina still enraptures new audiences today.
Incidentally, more than 15 years ago while flipping through reference books at the National Library, I browsed through a book "The 200 Best Album Covers" and to my surprise and delight, in this book published in the US, was the cover of "Crimson" …