|The Best of Jazzin’ for Ghibli
|December 03, 2008
|01. Marco to Gina
|Lo Three S feart.Olivia Burrell
|02. Kaze no Dentsetsu
|03. Kaze no Toorimichi
|M. Hisataakaa feat. Karakuri of A.Y.B. Force
|04. Umi no Mieru Machi
|05. Jinsei no Merry-go-Round
|06. Ghibli Interlude
|07. Inochi no Namae -GHIBLI medley-
|08. Ashitaka to San
|09. Mononoke Hime
|10. Kimi wo Nosete (Sal’s reconstruction)
|Sal feat. Agape of TWIN/Isosceles
|11. Ano Natsu e
|12. Teru no Uta
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[audio:01 – GhibliJazz.mp3]
Umi no Mieru Maichi
[audio:02 – GhibliJazz.mp3]
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
[audio:03 – GhibliJazz.mp3]
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.