2017/11/17

INSTALL! Denji Sentai Megaranger Part 1 of 2


It's that time again! For the third year in a row, our good GREAT friends at Shout!Factory have given us two Super Sentai DVD releases in one year. To finish off 2017, Denji Sentai Megaranger has recently been released in the Region 1 market. More good news, Gingaman has already been licensed/announced and will be the next series to get the DVD treatment in 2018.

I...kinda approached this series with a little bit of caution given that I have only watched it in it's entirety once in the past. The previous series that have been released on DVD I can almost recite lines from, but Megaranger...yeah, I never clicked with this show. That said, I was excited to give this one another whirl since it's been forever since I've watched Super Sentai chronologically and the last series I watched was Carranger.

What can you expect in this post? Characters... I know in my Carranger post I kicked it off with a big post on the production as a whole. Carranger is kind of a special circumstance though, as the series is unique in a number of ways. I've always grouped early Super Sentai series in threes since it seems to take that long before any noticeable change occurs. That leaves Ohranger-Carranger-Megaranger grouped together. There is some logic behind grouping those three series together...and it's something I hope to elaborate on in the next post. 

Megaranger turned twenty years old this year, but I feel like I still need to get the necessary *spoiler alert* out of the way just in case. You've been warned, lazy.

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Denji Sentai Megaranger

High School slacker Kenta Date is whisked away by INET executives after mastering the Megaranger arcade game. By coincidence, his friends and classmates from Moroboshi High School's Digiken club are investigating the secretive INET facilities. After sneaking in and running into Kenta, Nejirejia begins their attack forcing Dr. Kubota to give the young, but promising High Schoolers the ability to become Megarangers. From there, the five must balance their secret identities as Megarangers while also dealing with everyday High School life.

...or I can sum up the first episode as "I guess we're Megaranger now LOL". The conflict definitely came later on with couple of "I'm quitting LOL" episodes, but when exactly zero party is jazzed about who is wearing the suit, the only thing you can really think is "Where exactly as they going with this?". The cast is extremely likable however and, given the circumstances, probably were the best people for the job than say...the Jetman characters.

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Kenta / Megared

I kinda have a hard time placing Kenta. Of the core members, he is probably the one I like the most as a Megaranger. Like, he has zero interest in technology outside of playing the latest game at the arcade. That said, he took the whole assignment in stride and it really only took him until the very end to have his major "I quit" moment (if you can look past that time when he accidently punched a child). Really, though, outside of Miku he had the least ambition for the future which made him willing to risk himself (and his team) if he was in a life or death situation.

The only thing that really got me was that he was pretty close in personality to Kyosuke/Red Racer from Carranger. Having two similar Reds back to back was a little risky, but it at least set the wheels in motion for the series. Kyosuke suited Carranger far better than Kenta suited Megaranger.

I like Kenta, I just wish we got to know him better.

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Koichiro / Megablack

The kinda-sorta leader of Megaranger. Koichiro really had a habit of micromanaging and over-analyzing the tiniest of details, which usually backfired given how unpredictable Nejirejia could be at times. This usually put him in self-destruct mode whenever he did make mistakes. Luckily there was usually someone there to talk him down from the ledge--even if they did annoy him by being a little too carefree for his liking.

He is definitely one of the smarter Megarangers, but unlike Shun he relies on careful regiment and lots of studying to excel in school. When Koichiro is in one of his cooler moods, I really dig the guy. It's just a shame his laser focus on school AND being a Megaranger really leaves no room for a personality. We all know or knew someone like Koichiro...so I can't really hold that against the character.

Is it just me, or does Atsushi Ehara have a kinda/sorta/maybe passing resemblance to a Hiroshi Miyauchi? 

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Shun / Megablue

Could this dude have gotten any more head wounds during the series?

I kinda feel bad for Shun. He seems like a guy who, more than anything, has some real problems he probably needs to work out. While it's implied that he's really popular with the girls in school, we never really see him with one or even with a passing interest. Early in the series he is seen to be mourning his dead mother. It's probably more of a coincidence in the writing, but I kinda feel like this is why he was like "That's nice, I quit by the way...have fun being Megarangers". It was never fleshed out, but there is a little bit more to the guy and his hang-ups. I mean, he at least could have played off Miku a little bit.

Shun seems way out of place. Not so much as a Megaranger rather he almost seems like he's gifted but doesn't really apply himself outside of building a future career in computer graphics. He probably belongs in a better high school, but for one reason or another remains in class with his friends. 

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Chisato / Megayellow

Megaranger's dual threat. As she is very bright, she is often seen hanging around Koichiro...but she's also a girl so let's pair her up with Miku. It was a little bit of a curse since she was mostly along so that whoever was being focused on would have someone to talk to. I kinda feel like the whole talent show episode was a little bit of an apology for almost leaving her with nothing of her own outside of an overbearing Grandmother episode and making friends with a child whose Birthday is coming up.

She seemed to be the most reliable out of the Megarangers and the only one who really utilized their personal device feature through the series. I mean, the Digicam Search was a pretty neat feature. I'm not sure why she was Yellow, though. Her color really should have been chameleon based on how she blended in most of the time.

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Miku / Megapink

When a strained face is the result of assembling a thought...we must be talking about Miku.

Like any other Tokusatsu series, the stupidity was only ever played up when it was convenient for the plot. Really, though...is she *that* stupid? I don't think so. She isn't a great student, that's for sure...but who was the one who needed tutoring at the end of the series because they were in danger of not graduating? Kenta. Miku just seems like more of a fun ditz with little self-awareness than anything. She never really came up with any day-saving plans, but she could hold her own enough in a fight.

I kinda feel bad for Miku and her portrayal in Megaranger vs. Carranger. Yeah, she loves food...but if that was your only taste of Megaranger, you'll only know her as "Duuuur CAKE!". Kyosuke on the other hand ordering Katsudon matter-of-factly as if he were in a restaurant was pretty hilarious and expected. At least they made Miku much more fun in Gaoranger vs Super Sentai.

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Dr. Kubota

"Don't do it!!!!" *Does exactly what he said not to do, saves day* "Idiot!!! ......nice job"

Rinse... Lather... Repeat....

Dr. Kubota is the brilliant doctor who runs the Megaranger program within INET. He occasionally has reservations about sending fighters so young against Nejirejia...despite the fact that he planted the recruiting tool in an arcade, but whatever. Despite Kubota's ongoing clashes with the Megarangers and Yuusaku, he never fails to stick up for his team whenever upper management tries to pull the plug or make a drastic change. He also came up with some pretty rad designs and gadgets.

Like every other character, Kubota really doesn't have much to him outside of being into his trumpet, boxing, and his sweet Jaguar. There is only a little bit more to him we learn (see: Dr. Hinelar) but I feel like we really should have learned more...

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Yuusaku / Megasilver

The chief engineer at INET behind the Voyager Machines. I think making the Voyager Machines must have caused the dude to snap at some point. He abruptly showed up and transformed into the unfinished prototype Megasuit, Megasilver.

Leave it to the lone adult member of the team to bring the levity. Yuusaku saved the day a number of times either by sheer skill or through complex strategy. He's an easy-going guy and always itching to get into battle when he isn't either working on Mega Voyager or completing work on the Megasilver suit.

Jukou!

I really like Yuusaku. He's probably the closest any Super Sentai character got to City Hunter's Ryo Saeba. Hell, he even looks like him kinda. The only thing missing is the Mokkori powers...

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Jaden Okoku Nejirejia

Nejirejia are the villains of the show. Their motives are the usual, take over the world to make it their own personal playground. You think their dreams would be a strange digital hellscape...but the budget hit them pretty hard and they just wanted human slaves wearing either red, blue, or yellow jumpsuits.

With a razor-thin motive like that, let's just take a look at the individual players to see why they want to take over the world...

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Dr. Hinelar

The lead scientist of Nejirejia. He was once a colleague of Dr. Kubota known as Dr. Samejima, but after a devastating incident that resulted in the death of his daughter, he snapped and Tron'd himself into Nejirejia. He largely resides in Gran Nejiros during the series, but does make the occasional appearance to either taunt Kubota or see how his terrible plans are going.

In addition to taking over the world, he is also obsessed in proving that he is the better scientist than Kubota. Needless to say, this doesn't really work out...but he does develop some interesting technologies and hurdles for the Megarangers to overcome. By the end of the series, he becomes a full-blown mad scientist. He makes claims of immortality until the very end--even as his body begins to uncontrollably warp as a side effect to being a human in Nejirejia.

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Javious

The mysterious leader of Nejirejia. Seriously, though, don't even mind Javious. He is little more than the nagging force behind Hinelar's actions early on. I mean, he consistently lacked a design. At first he was an eyeball and later he was some pizza boxes stacked together. Someone likely suggested that there has to be something bigger than just Hinelar. 


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The thing burning? It's a Birthday cake...

Shibolena

The android recreation of Samejima's dead daughter. Maybe it isn't cool to lead off Shibolena's description with a major spoiler that wasn't revealed until the last episode, but who didn't see that coming? She eluded to being Hinelar's creation early-on...so nyeh. Also, this is Tokusatsu. Voluntary surgery equals death. Involuntary surgery? Kamen Rider.

Shibolena seems to have much more ground time/interactions early on. She is largely limited most of the series to dispatching the weekly Psycho Nejilars, though. She did have her uses when someone in Nejirejia needed to blend in with humans. She was also a fairly decent fighter on the occasions she did make it into battle.


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Yugande

One of the best designs in Super Sentai.......progressively ruined as the series went along. It's almost comical how many times Yugande was beaten. Let's take a look at all of his incarnations...

Yugande Relive...which isn't bad...

Yugande Strong...you're pushing it now...

Yugande Burning

He was a great fighter and was involved in pretty much all of the memorable battles in the series. He was created by Dr. Hinelar along with Shibolena and acts as more of the muscle/bodyguard.

Seriously, though, that original design is amazing. By the time we got to Burning Yugande...ugh...

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Bibidebi

The growth device of the series. Bibidebi is given an operation that gives him the ability to genetically modify the defeated Psycho Nejilar to become giant. One of the gags that I enjoyed that slowly got abandoned was how the Psycho Nejilar would scream "Waaah!" when Bibidebi bit them to begin the enlarging process.

Of pretty much everyone in Nejirejia, he actually pulled off the only time Nejireija did any permanent damage to the Megarangers. While nobody was looking he dispatched Canary Nejilar, which stole Chisato's voice and forced her to not be able to sing in the talent show. Pretty much every other time in the series the Megarangers were able save the day and continue with their lives unhindered. This was Chisato's last chance at singing in the talent show after being forced to miss it in previous years.

You think it's all going to work out, but it doesn't. Chisato misses her chance and her classmates pretend to be excited to see her show up way after the show. Damn you, Bibidebi!

Oh yeah...and what the hell happened to him anyway? Yugande died in battle, Shibolena died after breaking the news about Yugande to Hinelar, and Bibidebi booked a flight to the Bahamas because he knew shit was not going to last much long with just Hinelar left...

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Kunekune

The series grunts. My second favorite grunt design of the 90s right behind the Dorodoros from Kakuranger.

I have more to say...but I think I'll save that for next time.

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Guirail

"The boss sent me down from corporate to get you slackers in line!"-Every mid-series regular villain ever

Every series has one...few series try to make it interesting. Megaranger isn't one of them. Guirail is sent by Javious to get Hinelar and the others back on track. As with the usual middle-management bad guy he's super strong at first and then gets wiped out like a dozen episodes later.


Amid the turmoil he did do something at least a little bit interesting. He fused with Yugande to become Giga Guirail. Like the snake he is, he abandoned Yugande to get defeated once again by Megaranger. It did set the ball in motion for Hinelar's not giving a single shit about Javious when he Bomber-The-Great'd Guirail into Mad Guirail. Can't say I didn't see that coming.

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Nejiranger

Hinelar eventually finished the work that he initially began as Samejima--to create his own team. This time, however, it was more about being the better scientist than Kubota. At first, the Nejirangers gave the Megarangers a run for their money. Things quickly started to fall apart, however. The Nejiranger were quickly dimishing Javious' power--which is what was giving them life. The Nejirangers themselves almost seemed to mirror the personalities of their corresponding Megaranger. Nejired was impulsive while Nejiblack told him to cool it and wait for further instructions from Hinelar.


They later figured out they were basically on a suicide mission as Hinelar's goal was for the Nejirangers to both kill the Megarangers, Javious, and themselves in one swoop. This would leave Hinelar left at the top of the Nejirejia food chain and ruler of the world with any opposition gone. It wasn't a terrible plan, but the resulting battle only left the Nejirangers and Javious dead with his heart left behind.

This wasn't the complete end of the Nejirangers, though. Oh no. More on that next time...

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I have a lot of plans for the next post. I didn't want to make this a three-parter like I did with Carranger, but I'll be sure to go over everything I didn't get to in this post.

Especially that one critical point.....whether or not I even liked this show upon rewatch...or ever for that matter...

Stay tuned!

-CCLemon99


2017/11/04

The CD Collection--TM Network Original Singles 1984-1999 + BACKTRACKS


Welcome back to that wacky series where I talk about my horrible CD Collecting habit. On one hand, I always have something to listen to. On the other hand, have you ever tried to lift a box of CDs? Well...I have several. I love music, so what other options do I have?

This time on The CD Collection I'll be talking about TM Network. Whether you found out about them through their flirtation with anime theme songs or just through their sheer popularity, there is a good chance you've at least heard of them. While they're much less active today than they were in the 80s and 90s, they still perform and still know how to put on a show.

Earlier this year I reviewed the then-brand new GET WILD SONG MAFIA 4-CD set that was released on the 30th anniversary of that song. I recommend checking that post out as I give a little more insight into the band. Don't worry, there will be a reminder to check that post up the three times that Get Wild comes up in this post.

To cover the basics: Takashi Utsunomiya (vocals), Tetsuya Komuro (keyboard, mad scientist, super producer, also known as TK), and Naoto Kine (guitar, keyboard, sunglasses enthusiast) make up TM Network. They formed in 1983 after briefly playing together in a band called Speedway. They have all done solo work during their time as TM Network with TK becoming one of the biggest producers of 1990s JPOP.

With the intro out of the way, how about we dive into the body? (We say yeah!)


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TM NETWORK ORIGINAL SINGLES 1984-1999



DISC ONE MHCL-20164


01. 1974 (16 konen no homonsha)

Oddly enough, the first track on this set is, well, not even their first single. 1974 is actually their second single...but maybe a little more fitting as the first track with this revisionist discography. 

1974 is such a good song. Really, there are so many layers to this damn song. It could have been nothing more than the blaring synths and it still would have been acceptable for the time (look at bands like Depeche Mode and their work from early 1984). More than any point in their career, the "TM" in TM Network stood for "Time Machine". TM Network in general reminds me of the DeLorean in Back To The Future Part 3. It's a 1981 vehicle, with 2015 upgrades, and 1955 wheels and tires. Futuristic, reminiscent, and completely of it's time. 1974 sums up TM Network perfectly. 

Even if it is the second single they released, it works as the lead track of this set. The band has expressed regret that this wasn't their lead single, so I guess it's OK to rewrite history. I mean, their name is Time Machine Network after all. 

Oh, and I should probably note that this set uses the far superior Single Version of this song. The version from their debut single, RAINBOW RAINBOW, is...off. Compare the two and you'll see what I mean. The edits made for the single really makes this song work.

02. Panoramagic (Astronauts no higeki)

The B-Side track to 1974. Panoramagic is fairly similar song to 1974, so it was a nice fit on the same wax. It's a little dreamier sounding and quite a bit less in-your-face. It's definitely good to have on in the background.

A quick note on the title...it's a bit of a tongue-twister, but it works well enough as a portmanteau.

03. Kinyobi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)

HA........UH(bwahbwahbwahbwahbwaaahbwaaahbwaaaaah)

THIS is the debut single from TM Network. Personally I love this song...probably even more than 1974. Like 40% of the lyrics in this song are in English, but the whole thing comes across as bizarre blob. Even more bizarre is the music video...which was on Youtube for like ten years, I watched it last week, and now it's gone. Perfect. Just in time for this post. 


Crocodile Girl is sad that she had to wave goodbye to her video...

Take it to the Lucky is a little bit disjointed and sloppy, but still features the masterful producing from TK that really ensured TM Network would have been a success even if they had half as many hits as they managed to have early in their almost immediate popularity. Keep in mind, TM Network was only signed to flippin' Sony/Epic six months prior to this single. They debuted as label mates to Michael Jackson at the height of his career.

Unfortunately, the best version of this song isn't the single version that is included on this set. The album version from RAINBOW RAINBOW features this excellent and moody intro that I'm sure a lot of vaporwave dorks would rip-off if they ever found out about it. Outside of the clipped intro, the song is single version is the same as the album version. 

04. Crocodile Rap (Get Away)

Take it to the Lucky's B-side. It complements it perfectly. So far, all four of these tracks were also available on their debut album RAINBOW RAINBOW. These two singles, however feel like their on two different islands. If they really wanted to make things interesting they could have swapped B-Sides, but I see what they did with keeping the themes for both singles intact. 

Also...this song reminds me of Jermaine Jackson's Dynamite just a little bit. This isn't the first JPOP song that has had me making this connection. Dynamite is pretty solid song, but I have a feeling it was a much bigger deal in Japan. Akina Nakamori even covered it during her BITTER & SWEET tour... Or I could be making strange connections that aren't there.

05. Accident (ACCIDENT)

ACCIDENT is TM Network's third single and their first to come out in 1985. WOW. It's obviously the same band, but their sound had definitely become far tighter. The vocals are now dialed in and focused solely on the minty-fresh style of Utsunomiya. This is just a much better production all around...and it's a super catchy song to boot.

06. FANTASTIC VISION

The B-side for ACCIDENT. More of the TM in TM Network in action. This sound could have easily been released as-is a decade later and still been in step with the time. This definitely has some mid-90s chill to it, without getting too far ahead of the current sound. 

Apt title for this song. Hahaa.

07. DRAGON THE FESTIVAL (ZOO MIX)

I have mixed feelings on this one. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I think it is borderline dull. It definitely has an awesome title, I'll give it that. I appreciate it as a production just for being so strange. The chorus is...kinda meh. The singing in general is kinda flat and muddled. But...listening to it with the good headphones I hear all the little technically details more clearly. This is definitely one I enjoy a lot more on the Karaoke version of the set.

08. YOUR SONG ("D"Mix)

This song got a mix for the "D"...Vampire Hunter D. TK did the music for the Vampire Hunter D OVA from 1985 and this is the theme song. 

The synth bass is waaaay too heavy, but it actually matches the percussion perfectly. It's enough to hurt your teeth at times. I love it, though. Great singing and really a great debut for TM Network to make into the anison genre. Obviously this is far from their most memorable anison, however...

09. Come on Let's Dance (This is the FANKS DYNA-MIX)

1986. This single was released on the second anniversary of Take it to the Lucky and it marks yet another year of growth. The structure and energy is definitely early 90s, but this is also very much a mid-80s rock song. 

In two short years after their debut, this song is as tight as a drum. As great as their debut work was, it was from a young band that was still figuring it all out. This song is absolutely professional.

10. You Can Dance

Obviously this is the B-side to Come on Let's Dance. The title is basically doubling-down on your permission to dance. Let's dance...come on, you can dance...

Honestly, I can kinda leave this one. This is right around the time horns started to creep into JPOP songs. It works well for some songs, but sounds kinda lame for others. Sadly, this falls into the latter category. 

It doesn't help that it reminds me of Gloria a little bit. How did disco sneak it's way into TM Network?

11. GIRL

A somewhat slow jam that I can't really say I'm too fond of. It's a fairly straight-forward beat with "Girl, I love you." sung no less than forty times.

I should note that by this point TM Network had been all over the oricon charts with their singles. YOUR SONG was their biggest hit at 14th with other recent singles hovering around the same space. This single peaked at 32nd, which is right where they were with ACCIDENT. Maybe this single didn't quite need to happen.

12. Ame ni chikatte~SAINT RAIN~

A far better song than GIRL, it's A-side. This is an energetic rock song that is a little more on the generic side, but still a much needed jolt of energy. 

13. All-Right All-Night (No Tears No Blood)

Now that's a title...

So this is a dance song that is also a rock song. It's a pretty difficult feat to pull off something hyper-energetic like this without being overbearing or sloppy. I like this song quite a bit for being so different. Being a very fast rock song, the lyrics are almost rapped over the music. It all makes for a delightful combination.

That said, this song peaked at 41st. I might be alone in liking this one. Then again, TM Network is more of an album band. Pretty much every song mentioned so far has been on an album.

14. Self Control (Hakobune ni hikarete)

Catchy as all hell, that's all that really can be said about this upbeat rock song. 

Self Control is their first single of 1987...but definitely not the one people remember the most from TM Network that year. Most notable is that Naoto Kine removed his sunglasses for the cover image for the album of the same name...

15. Get Wild

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, check out my post on the 4-Disc GET WILD SONG MAFIA set that I put together earlier this year. 

How can I sum this up quickly? City Hunter. Signature song. Lab experiment for decades to come...

16. Fighting (Kimi no Fighting)

A nice ballad that is a fitting B-side for the excellent Get Wild. Utsunomiya's singing really makes this one special.

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DISC TWO MHCL-20165


01. Kiss You (Sekai wa uchuu to koi ni ochiru)

This one is a little bit different. The New York sound was fashionable at the time, but as far as I can work out this song was only inspired by a louder and more western sound without actually being recorded over here. Even if you've never heard this song, I bet you'll think it sounds familiar.

I like this one a lot. TK does the backing vocals, but they're almost loud enough that this song is almost a duet. The lyrics are sung in a light rap, which blends really well with the smooth beat.

02. RESISTANCE

RESISTANCE is TM Network's first single of 1988. I love this song and it's intense instrumentals, but I can't help but have a nagging feeling about how this song shouldn't really exist as it is. 

In 1992 TK released a self-cover of this song on his album of self-covers to select songs he produced called Hit Factory. His re-imagining of RESISTANCE is a very slow and emotional song. In reality, his version is more of an un-imagining as a demo version of RESISTANCE was later released. The demo, as you can imagine, sounded way more like TK's cover than the finished song. I wonder why there was such a drastic change...

Regardless, this is a great song.

03. Come Back To Asia

This is the B-side to RESISTANCE.

I admit, at this point I don't own every TM Network/TMN album. I've heard a lot of their songs, however, and they never really struck me as a band who was interested in taking any influence from any form of Asian music.

This song is very grand in an understated way. It has a very subtle Asian flavor with a somewhat cinematic feel. It kinda feels like a prototype to a song like trf's World Groove (trf being the 90s pop act that TK produced) or TK's theme song to the film Tentochito of the same name. 

04. BEYOND THE TIME (Mebius no uchuu o koete)

If you downloaded Gundam music from WinMX, you probably know this one...

This is TM Network's theme song to the film Kido Senshi Gundam: Gyakushuu no Char. BEYOND THE TIME is slick and well-produced track that has kinda gone on to live a life of it's own among popular Gundam songs. It's kinda weird when I ask people who know TM Network what brought them in. I did have a friend who loved this song and later heard the obligatory songs from City Hunter.

Utsunomiya's singing is very good on this song.

05. SEVEN DAYS WAR

Another movie theme song--this one shares it's title with the film. As TK did the music for this movie, it's only natural that his band perform the theme song. You know what, I really like this song even if it is a little bit of a lightweight. It's incredibly catchy.

06. GIRLFRIEND

This is the B-side to SEVEN DAYS WAR and is also included on the movie's soundtrack. This one...I don't like so much. The music fits in pretty well with the rest of the BGM from the movie, but you would never know that unless you heard the soundtrack of watched the movie. The chorus is pretty irritating, though. Ick.

07. COME ON EVERYBODY

Yessss. This is the TM Network I love. Just balls-to-the-wall hype music. I mean, you know what you're getting into just by the title of this song. Even as the 90s were approaching (this song was released in late 1988) TM Network was still challenging you to nonstop dancing in the guise of fast dance-rock.


08. JUST ONE VICTORY (Remix Version)

The first TM Network single of 1989. This is the remix version of JUST ONE VICTORY. While it sounds very of-it's-time, it almost sounds like the strings were later borrowed for GET WILD DECADE RUN. This remix of it is a little too disjointed and weird...it just makes me wish I listening to the actual song. It does one of those annoying false fades before blaring back into the song. 

09. STILL LOVE HER (Ushinawa reta fuukei)

The lesser-known TM Network City Hunter theme song. This was used as the second ending for the awesome City Hunter 2 (if you've never seen City Hunter, I can't recommend City Hunter 2 enough). The funny thing is, the second opening theme song from City Hunter 2 was the song SARA by Fence of Defense, which was pretty much made up of TM Network's touring band. City Hunter, City Hunter 2, and City Hunter 3 all had a strong connection to TM Network. Even the Japanese release of Jackie Chan's City Hunter-esque City Hunter movie featured a song from Utsunomiya. City Hunter '91 is invalid as far as I'm concerned...no TM Network...

The song itself? I love it. It's a beautifully done song and it works even better in context as the ending song that that particular arc of City Hunter. Seriously...this song brings fond memories of just some excellent television. Even the end credits were well done...despite being little more than stock footage of traffic, parks, and buildings with some characters lazily dropped in.

10. Get Wild '89

Hmmm I did talk about this one in my GET WILD SONG MAFIA review that you should totally check out...

[UPDATE] In my rush to skip this song, I totally forgot to point something out. The original single for Get Wild '89 features a second track--Fool On The Planet from the album Self Control. I have a theory as to why it wasn't included on this set. By the time this single was released it was kind of an older song. Maybe if it were a song from 1989 rather than 1987 it would have been included on this set. Otherwise...I have no idea...

11. KISS YOU (KISS JAPAN)

Didn't we get this one already? This is a remix of KISS YOU. The biggest differences here is that TK's backing vocals almost sound even louder and there is almost a Morris Day sound to it. I kinda prefer this version just for being just a little bit harder than the original.

12. COME ON EVERYBODY (with Nile Rodgers)

Another single of a remix of a previous single. Man, this back-to-back double-dip is pretty ballsy. I have to give them credit, though. This version does sound a lot less power-dance hit and more smooth 90s dance hit. That said, I enjoy the original FAR more than this one. 

13. DIVE INTO YOUR BODY

*cracks knuckles*

I've been waiting for this one. This isn't just my all-time favorite TM Network songs...it's one of my all-time favorite songs fullstop. This song is borderline assault with just how much they pack into it.

There is a parallel between this song and the just as incredible RUNNING TO HORIZON by TK. For starters, there were recorded at the same time. The LA-LA-LA-LA is only slightly different and both songs are of similar structure. While RUNNING TO HORIZON is the perfect pop song, DIVE INTO YOUR BODY is all that with a supercharger, turbocharger, and 100 shot of nitrous oxide. 

My favorite songs are usually the hardest to explain just because I think greatness needs no explanation. Musical taste is subjective, however, and this might sound like a crappy dance song to you. That's fine. I implore you to listen closely and at least try to explore how dense it really is. There are plenty of songs I don't like that are at the very minimum admirably produced.

When the song is rounding third base and starts breaking apart at the end...so good...

14. THE POINT OF LOVERS' NIGHT

The first single of 1990 and the final single released under the name TM Network. In fact, this song also appeared on the first TMN branded album Rhythm Red.

I have to say, for the bright future of the 1990s that TM Network was building up to...they kinda delivered the opposite of that for this song. Coming off of DIVE INTO YOUR BODY, this song is almost standing still. It doesn't have too much of a pulse.

BUT. It's a great song. Very catchy melody and hey...it's TM Network's first and only single to finish first on the oricon chart. Yeah, they got one in before they changed their name. TK was heavy into the synclavier at this point (See also: V2 single and Psychic Entertainment Sound) so that makes an appearance throughout the sound. If I can liken this to past TM Network songs...it's a little bit of BEYOND THE TIME meets Come Back To Asia. The results are great seeing as I like this better than both of those songs.

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DISC THREE MHCL-20166



01. TIME TO COUNT DOWN

TMN's first single and it hit Number 1? Who are these up and coming bastards??

Holy hell, this song rules. It's basically speed metal that takes brief breaks for the chorus. Songs like this are never catchy, but this one still manages to be thanks to the chorus. An odd-duck of a song, but goddamn does it kick ass. The speed-piano at the beginning reminds me a lot of V2's Eyes Of Venus...which makes sense since half of V2 is TK.

02. WORLD'S END

TMN's rock based sound is also apparent on this B-side to TIME TO COUNT DOWN. It definitely has more of a prog-rock sound with only some of the speed of the previous track. A great song and a great match for it's partnered track.

03. RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK

Part of the whole thing that got lost once they their name to TMN was the "TM" part of their name. So far the music has been great, but none of it really felt like it was delivered from the future. RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK is my favorite of the TMN songs I've heard (most of them) but this song really can't exist outside of 1990. As a single...this song was released in December of 1990. They ran the risk of sounding dated for the first time ever...!

My favorite part of the song is 00:34-01:11. It's just awesome. I loooove any TM-related songs that have extended intros--RUNNING TO HORIZON comes to mind as well. For this song, it gives the perfect build-up.

Here is the part I was planning on talking about the music video for this song. Let me try to paint a picture... Utsunomiya is dancing in a hyper-rehearsed fashion with a bunch of dudes wearing either red or black. Meanwhile, TK is trapped between two keyboard on a platform. The most bizarre thing is Naoto Kine...where is he? He VERY briefly makes an appearance in a red suit and is almost completely obscure by a weird fade-effect. I...don't get it. Between the almost robotic dancing, captured TK, and absent Kine there has to be some kind of plot woven in.

The ghost of Naoto Kine...

04. DREAMS OF CHRISTMAS

Ugh. Here we go...

This is the B-side to RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK. I've heard way worse Christmas songs, but when Utsunomiya is ill enough that others have to fill in for most of the singing duties...why even bother? TK's unique vocals are present along with Naoto Kine and occasional guitarist Tetsuya Katsuragi. 

Eh, but it was popular enough to make it into some ad campaigns...so what do I know?

05. Love Train

Remember all of those songs from the late 80s that TM Network made that sounded like they could be from the early 90s? Well, this one is riiiiight on time. It's a new song, I swear...but in 1991 they were releasing music that finally sounded like it belonged. Not only that, it sounds like tiny elements of many TM Network songs chopped up even further and spliced together to make one super song. I hear little split-second pieces of things like RUNNING TO HORIZON. Even the synclavier is back...

I like this one a lot...but whatever illness had Utsunomiya down at the end of 1990 is still present in his voice. It's not terrible, but he's obviously working at limited capacity.

06. We Love The EARTH

Heh. That title...

This is the B Side for Love Train. It's a decent song...this single is very reminiscent of earlier TM Network stuff. I mean that as a compliment. It all sounds great, but just a little but more modern.

07. WILD HEAVEN

Not a big fan of this one. It's upbeat to the post where it's almost a little irritating. I was hoping for the rock to stick around for a little while longer once they made the name change to TMN. Even the name isn't all that imaginative. They already have a song called Get Wild and hell, one of City Hunter's theme songs is called Go Go Heaven. A sloppy mash-up between those two songs would be more interesting than this.

It shouldn't really be much of a surprise, then, that they took nearly two years off following this single.

08. Ichizunakoi

OK, I like this one. TMN returns in late 1993 with a new dance single. It was kinda TMN-lite, though as Kine only provided chorus vocals. Strange. Regardless, this is a great song. Lots of energy, a great sound to it, and overall very catchy.

It's a little strange that this song has a Japanese title, no? If the title were in English, it would likely be "Everlasting Love", which is also the name of the comeback single from Akina Nakamori not to long before this. Probably just a coincidence...but it's not crazy to me. Is it crazy to you?

09. Nights Of The Knife

This is the final song of TMN. Released on the 10th anniversary of their debut, Nights Of The Knife is the farewell to TM Network and TMN. Well, as it turned out more of the farewell to TMN than anything. It's a slow song, but still has a beat. If this really were the complete end to TM Network, it would have been a great song to go out on. 

However, this end was only the end of a chapter... Five years later we got...

10. GET WILD DECADE RUN

I wouldn't mind talking about the other two versions of Get Wild on this set...but the less said about this stinker the better. That, and I also covered it in my review of GET WILD SONG MAFIA.

11. IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT

I mentioned in that GET WILD SONG MAFIA review that this song was the B-side to GET WILD DECADE RUN and that I actually preferred it to the title track. The beat is refreshingly simple-sounding but actually pretty complex the closer you listen to it. The janky guitar just means that this song is from the late 90s. While I like this one, it's easily just as satisfying to listen to the Karaoke version on the "Backtracks" version of this set.

12. 10 YEARS AFTER (BOB BLOCKMAN MIX)

Honestly, this song is very similar to IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT. Alarmingly so. It isn't a bad song, it just isn't much different from a song I just heard.

The title is a little bit perplexing. This song came out in 1999 and refers to the rebirth of TM Network after ten years. OK...but what about those five-ish years as TMN? You know...the five years where most of your Number 1 singles came from? Keep in mind, TM Network baaaaarely had one Number 1 hit. TMN? Five...out of seven. Pretty hard to ignore, eh? Hahaa.

13. 80's

Unusually this is actually the B-side of the single for Happiness x3 Loneliness x3, which I will be talking about next.

This is a pretty decent song to be perfectly honest. The singing is more group focused than centralized on Utsunomiya and the lyrics are actually pretty motivational. 

14. Happiness x3 Loneliness x3

This is actually the title track of this single. I'm a little bit murky on the details...but from what I gather the government requested an upbeat, motivational song for the kids to keep them off of drugs. The result...was this single. Uh yeah.

This song is pretty good, to be perfectly fair. Utsunomiya has minimal involvement with the vocals. I mean, he is drown out almost completely underneath the blaring latin-instrumentals and the female chorus. 

Did it work? Well, I didn't take any drugs today, so I'd say it's a rousing success!


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TM NETWORK ORIGINAL SINGLES 1984-1999 BACKTRACKS


Honestly there isn't entirely to say about this set. I'm VERY glad that it exists since I love all things Karaoke and Instrumental.

Basically this set is the exact same thing as the set I reviewed above except it is Karaoke and Instrumental versions. Is it perfect? Nah, but close! Only one song is absent from the vocal set. 98% is something I could absolutely live with...especially since the song missing is one I was never crazy about. Outside of that, this set is a little bit cobbled together. Some of the versions of songs are different from the vocal set. Sometimes there are backing vocals, sometimes there aren't. If you're expecting a 1:1 match for the other set, it comes very close...

Right now you can get the BACKTRACKS version of this set for very cheap on Amazon Japan--way cheaper than the vocal version. I recommend picking both up since years from now this one will be sought after. Official Karaoke discs like this always end up being rare as they are typically printed in smaller batches.

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DISC ONE MHCL-2056


The only missing song from this set is on this disc. You Can Dance didn't make the cut for whatever reason. 

All versions of the songs on this disc contain backing vocals (Karaoke) except Self Control, which is the Instrumental version. Two songs here are short versions--DRAGON THE FESTIVAL (Zoo Mix) and Come on Let's Dance (This is the FANKS DYNA-MIX). I dig the Karaoke version of DRAGON THE FESTIVAL.

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DISC TWO MHCL-2057


There is a slightly better mix of Karaoke and Instrumental on this one. Three tracks (COME ON EVERYBODY, DIVE INTO YOUR BODY, and THE POINT OF LOVERS' NIGHT) and Instrumental, while the rest are Karaoke.

The version of Get Wild '89 here is a strange short version. Much of the intro is cut for no reason... If you are bored enough you can cut together a full version pretty easily which I may or may not have done with this song and Take It To The Lucky. The Karaoke version of STILL LOVE HER doesn't fade out like the vocal version does...so there is another one you can mix and match with some minor editing skills.


It also would have been cool to get another take of DIVE INTO YOUR BODY with the backing vocals as they're a pretty important part of the song. Either way...I love that damn song...

-------------------------

DISC THREE MHCL-2058


The mix of Karaoke and Instrumental versions become great on this one. Five songs are Instrumental (Ichizunakoi, GET WILD DECADE RUN, IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT, 10 YEARS AFTER-BOB BLOCKMAN MIX-, and Happiness x3 Loneliness x3) and the rest are Karaoke versions. 

There really isn't too much to say about this disc as a lot of the material was previously available as these were all singles from the 90s. The only short version here is of 10 YEARS AFTER. I love the Karaoke version of RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK.


-------------------------


That does it for that. Unfortunately this post was Option C for what I was going to lead November with. I'm not far enough along in my re-watch of Denji Sentai Megaranger to talk about that and the other post...ummm, let's just say it fell apart. I've been traveling a ton recently and this set has gotten a lot of play from me. Write what you know, eh? Like I was saying...I highly recommend picking both of these sets up from Amazon Japan. I remember getting them for cheap only a few years ago. They're still available...so why not?

Be sure to check out my CD Collection page for more articles and reviews. Thanks for stopping by today!

-CC

TM Network GET WILD SONG MAFIA

2017/10/16

Toy Story: Jiban's Denshi Police Techou & The Local Toy Scene


I'm back again with another Toy Story. I really haven't done too many of these lately, so I felt it was time to take another trip down memory lane and tell a tale about a toy acquisition. This one is going to be a little bit different as it really doesn't involve much more than me walking into a store and buying something. It's the time, place, and item is what makes it worthwhile. Think of it as a little snapshot of what it was like to buy stuff in my area.

I should probably start by saying that I live in the state of New Jersey in the United States. It's proximity to New York City and Philadelphia means that there is some interesting over spill of international goods. For example, if I were to take a trip to one of the local malls I wouldn't have that difficult of a time finding Gundam models or Figuarts. You know, Bluefin stuff. There are some exceptions like the comic book store in Philadelphia that had a DX Goggle Robo as recently as four years ago (I would love to tell you more about the condition, but it was way out of reach and the lazy owner said "you can't afford it" when I inquired--joke's on him, his shitty store is gone) but for the most part things have become a little mainstream. 

Things were a little more interesting in the past...

I'll start with a story that I only know through second-hand information since I really wasn't around at the time. It's entirely plausible, so maybe someone can verify this. During the height of the Power Rangers craze there were apparently pop-up Power Rangers stores in some malls. These weren't official in any capacity, just stores that sold nothing but or close to nothing but Power Rangers toys. Since the line-up wasn't fully fleshed out in 1993/1994 this meant.....imports! 

The anecdote comes from a friend who sold me my second Dino Buckler. If you look closely at photos of my Dino Bucklers, you'll see an impossible-to-remove price sticker in the bottom right corner of either one of them. My first Dino Buckler has a sticker from a Japanese retailer. The one I bought from a friend looks a little something like this...

I gave my friend $20 for this...

Weird, right? Whenever someone asks me when I get my toys from, do I tell them complicated stories like this...or should I just stay the course and tell them "Japan"? 

One thing I can verify is the over-abundance of imported Dairanger toys in my area that seemed to linger until about 2000. There is a possibility you have seen some of these imported toys since they all carried these enormous orange stickers that are only kinda accurate.


I remember these Dairanger toys ending up in a lot of local comic book stores in the late 1990s. It seemed to be the same certain handful of Dairanger toys in these store. A bunch of Yutaka stuff, DX Dairenrod, DX Dairinkin, and DX Won Tiger. DX Won Tiger in particular seemed to be imported by the pallets as these were EVERYWHERE and for a long time. I remember going to the beach and seeing them as prizes in Skee Ball arcades. 

Which brings me to my main topic...how I found my DX Denshi Police Techou from Kidou Keiji Jiban. 

There was one store in particular that was a literal gold mine. It was located within a since-razed flea market. In the late 90s and early 2000s I had a pretty regular routine: go to White Castle (also since-razed) and then go to the flea market (which I should mention was demolished over a decade ago for a skating rink or some such shit that still hasn't materialized). This flea market was awesome...fake clothes, great food screw the board of health, some used electronics stores (which had copies of Metalder on VHS for sale of all things), and...the toy store.

The toy store, which I can't name for various reasons, carried almost exclusively Japanese imported toys. This place wasn't as high-end as the much more famous Outer Limits in Clifton, NJ (who frequently advertised in hobby magazines and books--they sold a lot of Medicom stuff) but it was fairly well known for it's staggering range of more-used-than-new stuff. How this store got it's stock was always a bit of a mystery to me, but it had some quality goods. It was pretty easy to make a trip there with one of my buddies because they had a solid selection of Transformers. The Tokusatsu stuff though...my word...

He did have a pyramid...a literal pyramid of the aforementioned orange-stickered Won Tigers along with some other Dairanger stuff, but beyond that there were tons of reasonably priced Sentai, Metal Hero, and Rider stuff of various vintage. Boxed and loose stuff from the 70s until 1994. Yeah, no matter when I visited this store he never had anything newer than Kakuranger and Blue SWAT. From what I recall hearing of the time, Saban was putting a squeeze on imports at a certain point. Maybe in response to those pop-up stores and orange-stickered imports...? This seemed to be more in response to West Coast imports of things like laserdiscs of Ohranger vs Kakuranger rather than toys, though. Regardless, no matter how many times I visited this crammed little store I found something great for under $20.


My favorite find was easily Jiban's Denshi Police Techou. I want to say it was around 2000 when I found it. I'd been visiting this place for a couple of years and only found it after convincing the owner to let me behind the counter so I could rummage through his stuff a little more thoroughly. Way in the back of one of the cubbies I found it...the complete in box Denshi Police Techou. Holy crap...THIS is the kind of thing I was dying to find in his store. It was 100% complete, in very good condition, from an odd show, AND was only *drumroll* $8. 

The owner had this kinda "What are you all excited about?" look on his face when I handed over the cash for it--as did my friend who thought I went over the deep end. They were both used to my normal Sentai/Rider finds...but what the hell was this one? It's kinda sad to say, but unless you're in Brazil or France...what even is Jiban? I knew, though, and I found something awesome.


When my friend and I got back to his house he was curious about what the hell I bought. "What is it?" "A police badge." "What does it do?" "Makes sound" "Does it talk?" "Nope. Makes sound and lights." "That's stupid." It wasn't until I put some new batteries in it that we were able to see what it does. "Oh...it has a game!" 

Sure it makes some shrill sounds, but we got some good mileage out of playing the game...and I love playing the Jiban theme song from it. It's a solid little toy that was only enhanced by the fact that I was able to find it in New Jersey, dig it out from the depths of the shelf it resided on, and pay for it in paper currency rather than my usual auction bidding. Fond memories...


Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this latest toy story. Be sure to check out my previous stories below. I'll have to try to do this more often as there are plenty of things in my collection worth writing about.

Bye now!

-CC

2017/10/02

Maybe Tsubasamaru's Theme Isn't a Problem After All--A CCLemon99 Follow-up


There is nothing more irritating than getting ripped off. On a smaller scale, you get some asshole re-uploading a video of yours for small profit. Sometimes, however, a career can ascend through somewhat murky circumstances.

I used to do a video series on my back-up channel called "Blue SWAT To The Future". It all stemmed from a piece of music from the Blue SWAT Music Collection that has an uncanny resemblance to the memorable tune from Back To The Future. You can still check out the video here. I did a few more videos based on whatever sound-a-likes that I had come across...and who knows, I might revisit the series someday.

By the second episode of the series I had covered a more subtle copy, but a pretty blatant one nonetheless. Tsubasamaru's theme music, from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, has an eerie resemblance to the equally eerie Blade Runner end title music by Vangelis. I slapped the video together, posted it to Youtube, and called it a day. It turned out to be the least popular video in the series, but no matter...it was out there.

I probably should have been a little more thorough, however. For starters, I actually have a theory as to why this happened when it did.

You see...the timing is almost too perfect. Tsubasamaru's first appearance was in episode twenty-three of Kakuranger, which aired on the 22nd of July, 1994. The new theme music was used and was the first piece in the second wave of music to be used in the series. The Blade Runner soundtrack was having a bit of a renaissance at the time as it remained unreleased in any official capacity. In early 1994 your only options to hear the acclaimed soundtrack was A) Watch the movie B) Listen to 1982 Disco-cover soundtrack no thanks C) Get your hands on the 1993 bootleg. Option C is really what forced an official release to come into fruition. On the 25th of July, 1994, the first official Blade Runner soundtrack was released in Japan with other countries having similar release dates.

Doesn't the timing seem...a little more than coincidental? How is it that Tsubasamaru hid an Easter Egg like this? I mean, I remember preordering CDs in the 90s, so it's entirely possible that Kakuranger's composer, Eiji Kawamura, was aware of the Blade Runner's soundtrack months in advance and somehow managed to show his support through his wink/nod facsimile days ahead of it's release.

OR. It's a coincidence. The timing, the music itself, the fact that Blade Runner also feature origami. All of it. Well, the last one definitely...

Origami...Tsubasamaru...Blade Runner???

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So why am I revisiting this topic? Well, there is a new Blade Runner movie coming out this month and I'm pretty stoked about it. I spent a lot of time on the road recently, so I found myself listening to, naturally, Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack. I'll be perfectly honest, outside of Blade Runner I only know of two other Vangelis songs. The first being a track called Horizon that I heard through this really creepy car commercial. The second being one the one that everyone has heard...Chariots Of Fire.

Chariots Of Fire is, honestly, pretty irritating in retrospect. Cliché blah blah slow motion blah blah cliché. Whatever. It was an odd electronic tune from the 1981 movie of the same name set in the 1924 Olympic games. It also launched Vangelis' career to a mainstream level and likely got him the gig working on the Blade Runner soundtrack.

I ended up getting bored one night and started reading about the several different versions of the Blade Runner soundtrack when an interesting tidbit snuck out and bit me. Vangelis was once sued for copyright infringement over his most memorable work...Chariots Of Fire.

The story goes like this... Fellow Greek composer Stavros Logaridis released a song in 1977 called City Of Violets. And well...just have a listen. And now Chariots Of Fire again.

After years of this case being kicked around court in Europe, Vangelis...actually won. ......how?

Whether the Judge just wasn't hearing the similarity or Logaridis had a horrible legal team representing him, in the eyes of the law these two songs are merely a coincidence.

So this is where I feel the need to step in.

All that hooey about the Tsubasamaru theme song being a copy of the Blade Runner end title music? Coincidence. How are we even sure Eiji Kawamura has seen Blade Runner...or even heard of it for that matter? The fact that he is a Sci-Fi composer with electronic tendencies? Coincidence. I mean, sure the Tsubasamaru music sounds nothing like any of the other Kakuranger music...but maybe the man just wanted to try something new. As far as I know, there is no court case against Kawamura and Toei by Vangelis. No need to make a fuss since they're nothing alike.

I almost feel the need to retract the video I made. I mean, sure, all the other videos in the series are carbon copies, but this one...I don't think it belongs there any more.


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I obviously had a little bit too much free time on my hands while I was on the road. When I heard about the court case the very first thing I thought of, well, the second thing I thought of was the Tsubasamaru music. The first thing was how much I don't really care for Chariots Of Fire. Vangelis is a very talented musician, but I don't know about this one. Legally it's his own creation...we can't argue with that.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this unusual post. If you want some more music topics, check out my CD Collection page for some related articles.

See ya!

-CC