I'm back! This week I decided to synch up with my Youtube channel and review some Space Sheriff CDs. If you haven't been following, I am currently reviewing the SHFiguarts of Gavan, Sharivan, and Shaider (along with a group video). I previously reviewed those amazing 2-Disc sets for Winspector, Solbrain, and Exceedraft if you want to get an idea of how these CDs are formatted.
As an added bonus I'll be reviewing two other CDs. One is the Tokusatsu Oh cover album along with the Uchuu Keiji Series Song Collection~FOR NEXT GENERATION~ "remix" album.
Uchuu Keiji Gavan Best Hit Songs & Original Soundtrack
The first disc of this CD set contains the full Gavan song collection as well as a small selection of BGM and four instrumental versions of songs. The song collection portion of the first disc contains narration at the start of pretty much every song. The second disc is the full music collection with the rest of the instrumental versions of the songs. It's a pretty straight forward concept.
Let's start with the song collection. Gavan's songs are all very good. Even though Akira Kushida did a lot of the songs for Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan the year prior, I feel like he owns this song collection a little more. He doesn't do every song on the soundtrack, but the ones he does are almost built around his voice. Try picturing anyone else singing Chase! Gavan. This collection is an example of having a perfect marriage between song and singer. Other singers include Harley Kimura of Ultraman 80 (and TALIZMAN) fame on two songs and Kenji Ohba himself with one song. Good stuff.
I have picked on composer Chumei Watanabe a bunch in the past...but I have to say that he is in TOP form on the Space Sheriff soundtracks. Everything before or after is kinda "meh" to me. Gavan in particular is one of my all-time favorite Tokusatsu music collections. He really got the most out of what was probably a tiny orchestra. It's no wonder that he is most recognized for his work on this soundtrack. The Laser Blade Theme itself has basically taken on a life of it's own past the Space Sheriff soundtracks. There isn't a single track here that I actively dislike, which is pretty rare. The stars lined up when this music collection was made...
This set gets a big thumbs up from me. The best part about it is that it's still pretty widely available as of this writing. Yeah, you can own this set for a very reasonable price.
Uchuu Keiji Sharivan Original Soundtrack
The 2-Disc party continues with Sharivan naturally, but you won't find the song collection here. This set begins with the music collection on the first disc and gets crazy in all the right ways for the second disc.
The music collection for Sharivan is once again composed by Chumei Watanabe. It's merely a continuation of the work he did on Gavan. Very similar, but almost a bit more polished. Something I didn't mention with the Gavan music is that he seemed to have the vague idea of the Laser Blade Theme prior to recording since elements of it show up in different tracks. Eventually he ended up at the final version...but all of the "demo" versions were still used. Ummm...the Sharivan music collection also contains a ton of new laser flavored variations with a new final version. I guess he *really* just liked it that much. Overall, it's an excellent music collection--a worthy successor to the Gavan music collection.
I purposely didn't want to spoil the contents of the second disc above. Most people won't really care, but those of us who know...oh boy, this was exciting. Getting only it's second CD release is the DIGITAL TRIP Uchuu Keiji Sharivan SYNTHESIZER FANTASY. This curious album was released in 1983 and pretty much forgotten until it was quietly included in the last volume of the Metal Hero Song Collection Daizenshuu in 2004. Maybe it's a little more at home here on the Sharivan music collection.
Now if you're a fan of 80s anime, you might recognize the Digital Trip _______ Synthesizer Fantasy name. There were quite a few of them from series such as Macross, Hokuto no Ken, Captain Tsubasa, Cat's Eye, Lupin the 3rd, etc. There are a ton of them and I don't even think I have a complete list of them myself. I've heard quite a few of these and the premise is pretty much the same throughout. They are basically a collection of heavy synthesized (duh) cover medleys of both songs and music from a given show. Based on the sheer number of releases I want to say these were popular...which is kinda sad seeing that a number of them have been lost to time. A handful made it to CD--so let's talk about Sharivan.
Sharivan's Synthesizer Fantasy is an eight track mix of instrumentals from vocal songs and the music collection. It kinda tells a story the way most music collections do with the beginning (OP), middle (different variety of BGM) and ending (ED song). It really takes a super fan of the music/songs to appreciate how this was put together and how it was re-imagined. You also really have to be a fan of synthesized music. I mean, really. They aren't kidding with the title. It IS both a Digital Trip and a Synthesizer Fantasy. At some points you'll get a blast of guitar and it'll be a shock to your system, but in a good way. Also, because all of the music was primarily done electronically it sounds very rich compared to a lot of the sloppy recordings Columbia did in the early 80s. It's very clear and sounds excellent through a decent set of headphones. I very much enjoy the Sharivan Synthesizer Fantasy, though I understand if it isn't your thing. Give it a try, though. You might like atleast some of it.
Once the Digital Trip is over, there are a few spare tracks tacked onto the second disc. There are three BGM medley tracks (two of them are in the neighborhood of 12 minutes each) along with a bonus track of the original release recording of the series ending song Tsuyosa wa ai da. If you're wondering what that's about, don't go nuts trying to track this down. Even to my very heightened ear (is laser hearing a thing?) I can barely tell the difference.
Very good set. There is a lot of otherwise super rare stuff included on this set. This is the type of archive diving that Columbia needs to do for every series.
Uchuu Keiji Shaider Original Soundtrack
To round out this glorious trio of releases we naturally got a 2-Disc set for Space Sheriff Shaider. This one...is kinda all over the place. Disc 1 is the music collection proper with some bonus tracks of exclusive instrumental and Karaoke tracks. Disc 2 is a CD release of an old LP called Uchuu Keiji Graffiti along with some bonus tracks.
The Shaider Music Collection is much like the Sharivan music collection in that it is an evolution of it's predecessor. The Laser Blade Theme lives on...but there is something sinister that has seemingly taken over. Rather than Laser Blade getting a ton of variants, the Fushigi Song is everywhere on this set. It wouldn't be such a bad thing if it weren't so irritating. I mean on it's own it isn't too bad, but it gets old. That being said, this is still a great music collection. It kinda went in a new direction, but the style we have grown accustomed to in the previous shows is still there.
Oh yes, the Instrumental and Karaoke tracks that are tacked on to the end were an excellent touch. Remember, Metal Hero shows really got shafted on having Karaoke tracks released prior to B-Fighter. I'll take it wherever I can get it.
Disc 2...well, I didn't really bother with the Uchuu Keiji Graffiti album for a few reasons. The tracklisting is kinda baffling for one. It never got a CD release prior to this set, which kinda hindered me since buying LPs from Japan is usually way more expensive than it needs to be thanks to a tight market and the extra layer of packaging needed for protection. It just never seemed worth it to get this one. My suspicions were confirmed when I got this set. It's basically a strange mixture of songs (both vocal and instrumentals, usually only 1 chorus long) and BGM. Think of it as a 'Best Of' when it comes to BGM. The song choices make sense I suppose. There are some unique tracks here, but if you've been following along with these releases, you might be disappointed that they're already doing a clipshow in the third episode. It IS nice to finally have this release for completionist's sake.
The bonus tracks on Disc 2 are four vocal songs and two more Karaoke version songs.
Obviously this is a good set. There is tons of new and newly digital material. It kinda shows that maybe they were running out of steam by tacking on the Karaoke tracks, but I'll gladly take them over a shorter runtime. Great way to end the set, even if two of the final tracks are the Fushigi Song yet again.
Uchuu Keiji Series Song Collection ~For Next Generation~
Oh boy...where to begin on this one...
With all of the Space Sheriff resurgence of the last few years, something like this was inevitable. I think the idea behind this set was to clean up the song collections for Gavan, Sharivan, and Shaider but they got a little too anal and ended up sterilizing it...so they had to lay down some new music. Laying down new music on top of 30 year old music is much like CG. It can be done poorly or it can be insanely good...either way your brain is not going to be completely sold. So how did this one do?
Like I said, every song from the Space Sheriff series was included on this set. All of the original vocals were left unchanged along with the majority of the music. Basically all of the drums were replaced along with bass on some songs. An occasional new guitar/piano/effect lick shows up to keep the experts awake.
Remember my CG analogy? If this album were CG, I'd say they did a middling job. Listening through my headphones you can still hear a lot of the fuzz that they were desperately trying to get rid of through a myriad of pretty obvious tricks (just listen to the very end of pretty much any song and you'll hear what I'm on about). Some of the songs were given more effort than others...and some just don't work at all. The Shaider songs in particular just don't sound very good. The new version of the Fushigi Song was given this almost hip hop drumbeat for no reason. Remember, the idea wasn't to reinvent songs--merely to reintroduce them. The Gavan and Sharivan songs are kinda mixed.
The big winner of the old songs, to me, has to be the new version of the Sharivan opening theme. It kinda recaptured the sound the song had in it's MONO version. I can't describe it, but something is missing from every stereo release of the full version of the Sharivan OP. It's meant to be heard in MONO since it really makes the drums and bass explode. The only issue I have with this song, and it's kind of a big one, they kinda downplayed the cowbell. I GOTTA HAVE MORE COWBELL!
Ah yes, and how I could forget the two new songs included on this set? Uchuu Keiji Gavan TYPE G is new version of the Gavan theme song. I actually kinda dig it. Akira Kushida has a timeless voice, so he blends in nicely among his 1982-84 recordings. The other song is an all-new one called Uchuu Keiji NEXT GENERATION which I just listened to twice and have already forgotten. It's alright I suppose.
Overall...heh. I have to say that this set is unintentionally kinda funny. It's just all over the place. It shouldn't be this entertaining, but it is to me. I can't imagine a new fan getting anything from this set, yet I think fans very familiar with the original songs are going to pick it apart much like I did. Check it out to see what I mean--and I hope you get a laugh out of it.
Ultra Anime Eurobeat Series Gaiden
Tokusatsu Oh ~Forever Chumei Watanabe~
This curious CD was released with little notice or reason in late 2001. It is a largely a medley of Chumei Watanabe composed songs from the three Space Sheriff song collections as well as the ending song from Himitsu Sentai Goranger and opening theme songs from Denshi Sentai Denjiman and Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan. After the medley, there is a new version of the theme song from Gavan as well as a long remix of the Gavan theme.
The CD begins with a prologue of sorts with a long version of the infamous Laser Blade Theme. The medley begins after this with four songs from Gavan, five songs from Sharivan, five songs from Shaider, and one song each from Goranger, Denjiman, and Sun Vulcan. Once the Eurobeat medley is over, there is a new version of the Gavan theme song called the "Chumei Watanabe Self Arrangement" or, more popularly, "The New Brass" version. This is followed by a Karaoke version of the same song and a remix called "h's 12inch Mix". Most songs are done by Akira Kushida with a few guest appearances by Takayuki Miyauchi, MIO (!!!!!!), and a lone song by Yoko Ishida.
I waited until the end to throw a massive curveball. I absolutely love this CD. I'm not a fan of Eurobeat stuff (if I ever get to the 87,000 Ultraman Eurobeat CDs I own, you'll know why) but this CD was very well done. There are a few factors that lend to it's success. Freshly recorded vocals really give each song a life that they otherwise wouldn't have had. Everyone involved seemed to have a good amount of enthusiasm. Each song blends into the next pretty seamlessly with the theme songs given an ounce more gravitas over the regular IN songs.
People don't seem to like this one much...and I can understand why. I bought it soon after it was released and didn't care for it much. It was probably fatigue thanks to crap like late 90s Ultraman and Initial D being everywhere (Don't worry...I like Runnin' In The 90s). Now that we've finally stepped away from Eurobeat, I can appreciate the good effort in releases like this one and...well, nothing else. Good riddance to Eurobeat.
This is quite good for an off-label release. Check it out sometime. I listen to it every so often when I write up my written reviews for my videos.
Yet another entry into my crazy CD Collection. These are pretty pedestrian compared to some of the stuff I have, but interesting nonetheless. Check out the my CD collection page on my blog for more articles on Tokusatsu CDs.
Thank you and see you next time!
P.S. Some more photos of the Tokusatsu Oh CD...