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...

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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.


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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

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