|Album Title:||Cowboy Bebop|
|Anime Title:||Cowboy Bebop|
|Artist:||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts|
|Release Date:||May 21, 1998|
|1. Tank!||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||3:30|
|2. Rush||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||3:34|
|3. Spokey Dokey||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||4:05|
|4. Bad Dog No Biscuits||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||4:09|
|5. Cat Blues||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:37|
|6. Cosmos||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||1:37|
|7. Space Lion||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||7:11|
|8. Waltz for Zizi||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||3:29|
|9. Piano Black||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:49|
|10. Pot City||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:15|
|11. Too Good, Too Bad||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:36|
|12. Car 24||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:49|
|13. The Egg and I||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:43|
|14. Felt Tip Pen||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:42|
|15. Rain||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||3:24|
|16. Digging My Potato||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||2:24|
|17. Memory||Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts||1:32|
Review: Yoko Kanno almost needs no introduction, as her name is synonymous with quality soundtracks in the anime community and around the world. Many anime that have featured her compositions have gone on to become classics, which include series like Escaflowne and several iterations of Macross and Ghost in the Shell: SAC. For many, though, Kanno’s efforts on Cowboy Bebop are what put her on the map. This brings me to the album at hand, the eponymous Cowboy Bebop, one of no fewer than ten discs of OST releases under the Cowboy Bebop name released since 1998. It’s difficult to recall an anime soundtrack that has had as much widespread appeal as that of Cowboy Bebop, garnering fans that have never even seen the series and inciting high school jazz bands the world over to perform horrible covers. Though the album has hints of material being written under a time limit and a budget, I stand firm that the good parts of the disc are enthralling enough to recommend the album to anyone who is a fan of jazz or just tired of the same old pop idol drivel in anime these days.
At the forefront of this release is the bold, in-your-face big band sound, exemplified in the opening track “Tank!,” which arguably has become as well-known as the series itself. “Tank!” is likely one of the most exciting, energizing songs ever set to animation, and it makes for an excellent opener; the song is sheer ecstasy from beginning to end. When the thumping (and now iconic) acoustic bass line comes in after the screaming opening, your face will explode. Hopefully, you have several extra faces handy, because when the main theme comes in after the recitative, your face will explode. Again. Your face will explode when the band drops out for the sax break, again after the sax solo is over, again in the screamer section when the lead trumpet hits a stratospheric G#, and again after the second sax break, during the final chord. If you’ve only ever heard the 1½ minute TV edit of this particular tune, I would almost say the disc itself is worth it for the full-length hi-fi version of this one song. Almost.
Though not quite as impressive as “Tank!,” “Rush” is still a highlight of the album and is appropriately exciting for a song that was primarily used to underscore chase scenes. The melody flies at a breakneck pace and has some superb call and response components in the traditional big band style. The excellent trombone solo is of note, as are harmonized sax solis that feature very sophisticated parallel 10th harmonizations in the lead alto and tenor.
Bad Dog, No Biscuits
Also used in chase scenes is the explosive “Bad Dog No Biscuits,” which will come and go like a tornado in your ear canal, leaving you little time to ponder anything else aside from figuring out what the heck just happened. The song is a maelstrom of sound; it nears unintelligible cacophony at certain instances, and what sweet racket it is. With much of the insanity coming from the wailing (and exceedingly difficult) harmonic subtones in the saxes, the song is as much a showcase of skill and instrumental control from all members as it is a convenient sonic device to clear your sinuses.
Too Good, Too Bad[audio:http://blog.animeinstrumentality.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Too-Good-Too-Bad-Clip.mp3]
“Too Good, Too Bad” is a pleasing little number that features a solo by the band’s baritone sax (a rarity) and is overall a decent listen (with a serious similarity to the jazz standard “Chameleon”). In the same vein, “Car 24” is likely the disc’s only true toe-tapper and is a feel-good romp with some very nice scoring that features what sounds like a bass clarinet.
Aside from these tracks, though, I wish Kanno had stuck more consistently with the superb 17-piece big band they assembled for these sessions. While no song outright disappoints, it can’t be said that every song brims with the same quality found in the above tracks. Admittedly, many of these songs were written to be quiet mood-setters and not exciting foreground barn burners, but I maintain that any well-written background music can function just as well for outright listening pleasure. The vocal-based “Rain” starts promisingly but never quite goes anywhere, while “Felt Tip Pen” and “Waltz for Zizi” are solo guitar numbers that are very good in their own right but are a bit too repetitive for repeated listening. “Spokey Dokey” and “Digging my Potato” are there to please the solo harmonica crowd, which… oh, wait, there is no solo harmonica crowd. In all seriousness, I don’t think that quiet mood-setting harmonica numbers like those two have any place in an album dubbed as official-sounding as “COWBOY BEBOP.” “Cosmos” and “Space Lion” are bastardized (and in the latter’s case, literally Africanized) versions of the far superior “The Farewell Blues” and “Goodnight Julia,” respectively, which are included in subsequent album releases.
Digging My Potato
Waltz for Zizi
In the end, the inclusion of less-than-stellar filler content seems to be a marketing ploy rather than any lack of good material. I get the feeling the producers wanted to spread the good stuff out to sell as many CDs as possible, a common practice I consider despicable but acknowledge that it at least promotes future investments in superb OSTs. This may explain the baffling absences of the excellent closer “The Real Folk Blues” and the unadulterated version of the moving insert song “Goodnight Julia.”
If I were reviewing the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack as a whole, I can assure you that I would give it the highest rating available. It is unfortunate, then, that this particular selection of songs, while still respectable in every way, does not represent the best Cowboy Bebop has to offer. Rather, it comes off as an unlucky mix of the exquisite and the simply above average. While no single track outright offends, what is offensive is that the release schedule of such a superb, ground-breaking OST had to be broken up into bits that contains components that are, ultimately, simply passable.
Rating: Very Good