Best of Jazzin’ for Ghibli – Review

Album Title: The Best of Jazzin’ for Ghibli
Anime Title: Various
Artist: Various
Catalog Number: FAMO-10001
Release Type: Compilation
Release Date: December 03, 2008
Purchase at: CDJapan


Tracklist:

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01. Marco to Gina Lo Three S feart.Olivia Burrell 5:06
02. Kaze no Dentsetsu Takero Ogata 4:57
03. Kaze no Toorimichi M. Hisataakaa feat. Karakuri of A.Y.B. Force 4:57
04. Umi no Mieru Machi LAVA 4:22
05. Jinsei no Merry-go-Round Morphil 4:59
06. Ghibli Interlude Ghibli Interlude 1:20
07. Inochi no Namae -GHIBLI medley- DJ SLY 4:26
08. Ashitaka to San DJ DAVI 4:22
09. Mononoke Hime D.Locke 4:59
10. Kimi wo Nosete (Sal’s reconstruction) Sal feat. Agape of TWIN/Isosceles 4:28
11. Ano Natsu e Sal 5:07
12. Teru no Uta Smooth J 4:08

Review: I’m going to say this right off the bat. I’m a tremendous Ghibli fan. It did take me a while to sample its fine wares, but when I delved into the world of Porco Rosso, of Totoro, of Princess Mononoke’s San and Ashitaka, it was love. And little wonder. Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli has always been a mainstay of quality and a creative tour de force in the anime world. Of course, one of the main reasons why Ghibli films are so endearing is due to their sumptuous and beautiful soundtracks. The music composers for Studio Ghibli are all masters of their craft and their music has lived on in so many forms.

Thanks to their longevity, Ghibli themes have been covered many a time, officially or not. There are acapella renditions, reworked orchestrations, piano covers, more piano covers, music-box instrumentations, even orgel versions of favourite Ghibli themes. While roaming around Tokyo, I chanced upon such an album – The Best of Jazzin for Ghibli. As I did more research into this album, I found out it was also part of an unofficial Ghibli jazz series. I was curious and I loved jazz. Did this satisfy?

To say the least, it certainly was not what I expected. Now, my preference for jazz leans towards the traditional standards within the trios/quartets sets. Whispering drums, thumping basses, swinging keys, you get the picture. This wasn’t it. The bongo introduction in Porco Rosso’s “Marco to Gina” told me all I needed to know of this album. Sure, this was jazz, but of the chilled variety. Think lounge-type jazz with breakbeats from a percussion machine and licks from the DJ. Despite it not being in line with my expectations, “Marco to Gina” was an enjoyable listen. Behind the syncopated beats and a female voice that recited lines from the film, there was a great mix of instrumentals and a surprisingly faithful, smooth-as-whiskey keyboard solo.

Speaking of solos, the cover of “Kaze no Dentsetsu” worked in a cheeky, frenzied keyboard one that was rather impressive. The soft background vocals that hummed the main Nausicaa theme gave it quite the exotic aura. Totoro’s “Kaze no Toorimichi” worked in samples of children’s laughter and had a relaxed beat while giving the solos and main theme plenty of time to build. While I still preferred DJ NOMAK’s use of the Totoro theme, this was still a pretty good piece. The fourth track, “Umi no Mieru Maichi,” took a different turn. What was once a tango-styled favourite from Kiki’s Delivery Service got the Samba treatment with plenty of varied percussion, a groove-worthy bass, flamboyant piano-playing and a jazz flute solo. It was corny and had all the tropes of a Latin cover and I loved every bit of it.

Kaze no Dentsetsu

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Umi no Mieru Maichi

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Four tracks in and I was enjoying myself thoroughly. And then, things got weird. The variations vanished and were replaced by generic lounge-fillers. The stirring waltz in “Jinsei no Merry-Go Round” from Howl’s Moving Castle made way for a boring drum-and-bass cut, and while the cover for Princess Mononoke’s “Ashitaka to San” tried very hard to be epic (think Moby-styled), it was way too repetitive to be memorable. Straight after that was another Princess Mononoke arrangement, this time the main theme. This one fared a little better, as it adopted an interesting piano trill as a backdrop to the flute instrumentation. But then it was back to poorly-executed tracks like Spirited Away’s “Ano Natsu He” which was too loud in places and, while it had a good lead in, the instrumentals did not mesh well in the end. The final song to end this dismal half was a very flat cover of “Teru no Uta” from Tales of Earthsea.

Interestingly, there were two songs that fell between the ‘Well, at least they tried’, and ‘What in the name of Yu-Baaba were they thinking?’ category. “Inochi no Namae” is a medley of several Ghibli themes, and gets points for a good mixing of songs. At least, it would have been more noteworthy if the songs weren’t played elsewhere in the album. Definitely a strange track placement which backfired, I’m afraid. The second of these oddities is a cover of “Kimi no Nosete” from Laputa: Castle in the Sky. In the form of a rap. Much kudos should be dispensed to rapper Isosceles because his flow and rhythm were both spot on and worked really well with the simple background theme. It’s just that… it’s a rap. Fan-favourite Ghibli songs just do not mesh well with rap, and I couldn’t buy into it.

Kimi wo Nosete

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So, verdict? It’s a strange one. I want to call it adventurous, but while some of the arrangements were quite stylish, the main bulk of the tracks were either average or below that. Get it if you’re a huge fan of anime lounge music, but it’s a pass for me.

Rating: So-so

maskerade

I'm an avid listener of Anime Music, with Yoko Kanno my Goddess. I'm also a huge fan of jazz and have enjoyed the currents of the indie Jrock scene these past years. I'm also an unfortunate rambler and starving writer, all of which leads me to write reviews for this fair blog. I tend to stare a lot.

14 thoughts on “Best of Jazzin’ for Ghibli – Review

  • July 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm
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    Ouch. As much as I often like rapping in J-Pop (ALTIMA is still one of my favorite bands), this version of Kimi wo Nosete feels like drilling holes through my ears. What were they thinking? The original song was a sad, tear-jerking but amazingly beautiful song played in the background with Laputa flying away at the end of the movie. This one is… hrm… I don’t even know what to make of it…

    Reply
    • July 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm
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      Exactly. I mean, the rap isn’t bad, on its own. But for a Ghibli thing… it’s jarring.

      Reply
  • July 31, 2012 at 12:40 am
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    When I saw this album pop up, I’d really been hoping for some arrangements that would have been sensible to my ears. But between the rap and whatnot, everything here was decent at best and meh at worst. Normally, you can’t go wrong when arranging things into jazz as the Platina Jazz albums have been able to demonstrate. Not here though.

    Reply
    • July 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm
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      Well, as I wrote, they had it right… for a while. But lounge beats get to you after several listens. This one went straight to the ‘bored and bad’ pile :(

      Thing is, had a listen at the other albums in the series, and they are pretty good. Jazzily good.

      http://youtu.be/5xo5YmwU0BU

      I had to pick the wrong album :(

      Reply
      • August 1, 2012 at 2:09 am
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        They are indeed better, but are you sure they are from the same series?

  • July 31, 2012 at 1:39 am
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    This is certainly an album I could do without in my Ghibli music collection, but for the sake of completeness… :) On some of those rearrangement albums you really do wonder why they would bother to make them in the first place, especially those that bring in almost no originality or real musical skill on their own, a worse offender for me bein ‘Sumi Shimamoto Sings Ghibli’ for me.
    BTW, unrelated to this review, have any of you guys here ever thought to review an album by Yuji Ohno from his vast Lupin repertoire? Lots of awesome stuff…
    I have listened to this one countless times while finishing a days’ work:

    Reply
    • July 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm
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      Ooo.. was thinking of doing one of the Lupin’s, the question is… which one? :) It’s in the plans.

      Reply
      • August 1, 2012 at 2:27 am
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        Really hard to choose with the heap of albums Ohno did, isn’t it? :)
        Well, I would suggest “Lupin III – Jazz – Bossa & Fusion”, where this song I linked to comes from, “Cool for Joy”, “Lupin the Third Jazz -The 3rd- Funky & Pop” and the “Castle Of Cagliostro” movie OST maybe (only the last one is a ‘real’ OST).

  • July 31, 2012 at 2:43 am
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    I enjoyed this. Helped me through finals a while back. Granted, the criticisms are fair. Most of the album are a bit bland, lounge music, but the few—especially the ones that I could distinctively recognize where they come from—I really liked.

    Reply
    • July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm
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      So did I, for a while. I don’t know, there were pretty unimaginative songs in there, and that’s not really forgiveable given the source material. Probably more unforgivable because there are recognizable themes in there.

      Reply
  • July 31, 2012 at 6:24 am
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    Ah, what a waste. Jazz rearranges are fun to listen to, but having only a couple of good tracks is not cutting it for me. And that rap version of “Kimi wo Nosete” is so bad.

    Reply
    • July 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm
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      Fret not, there are tons of anime jazz arrangements out there. Problem is finding the right one.

      Reply
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  • August 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm
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    Man, it was worth having this album released just to hear the “What in the name of Yu-Baaba were they thinking?” comment. xD

    More seriously, out of your samples I’d say I enjoyed the Kiki’s Delivery Service track the most. The melody seems to inherently lend itself to being arranged in that fashion. The Laputa rap on the other hand… eugh.

    Reply

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