“You need a bum,” sings Tomoaki Kamijo. “I need a cum.” His pronunciation isn’t perfect, but Martha, his first album, released in 1971 and sung entirely in English, is a sweet-natured precursor to today’s J-pop: an amiable collection of songs that sound as if they’ve been inspired by the American West Coast scene of the day and The Beatles in their Nowhere Man phase. Kamijo is not only borrowing the sound of the overseas bands, but also their way of framing lyrics. “One and one is two / You and I are true.” In the middle of singing about peace, love, and loneliness, he describes the Martha of the title, a girlfriend, possibly imaginary, in words that sum up the entire album. “My Martha. She’s very cute. / She’s very pretty, too.” Martha is not a disc that asks for large adjectives—it’s not gorgeous, nor is it stunning, nor execrable—but it is pretty and cute, an album for mild-mannered people who want to feel reasonably happy. (That’s a bomb and a comb he’s talking about, by the way.)
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